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Battle Of Florida: Panthers Take Game 1, Win 3-2 Over Lightning

The Florida Panthers took Game 1 of their first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning 3-2.

For the third time in four years, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning face off in the playoffs. Contrary to their previous meetings, it is the Panthers who have home ice, as the team with the highest regular season ranking. Game 1 took place at 12:30 pm at Amarant Bank arena in the Sunshine State. Here is a period-by-period breakdown of Game One of this series.

First Period

From the get-go, the Panthers came with their fangs out, dominating physically and finishing every check. They looked hungrier and faster than their opponent. After generating a few chances, Sam Reinhart gets Florida on the board at 6:17 minutes played. The Panthers’ leading goal scorer deflects Gustav Forsling‘s shot from the blue line for a trademark goal. Shortly after, Florida continues its high-paced play and draws a penalty. It took over 15 minutes for the Lightning to get their first shot on goal.

At 16:04, Brandon Hagel puts one past the lightly tested Sergei Bobrovsky. A successful set play off an offensive zone draw leads to a rebound and Tampa Bay ties it 1-1. The equalizer fired up the team as they spent more time on attack at the end of the period.

Second Period

The first half of the second period belonged to Tampa Bay. Unlike their play in the first, they came out strong from the start. Tampa’s defensemen delivered big open ice hits and crushing hits in the corner. The Panthers take an unlucky tripping penalty at 13:30. Unfortunately, the league’s top powerplay can barely get any shots on net as Florida’s penalty kill holds them off with perfect execution.

At the end of the period, Nick Paul is called with a holding penalty. A strange call that set up the Panthers for an opportunity to get the lead back in the third.

Third Period

Florida starts the period with the man advantage. They quickly get installed in the offensive zone. Matthew Tkachuk corrals the puck down low, and passes it to Carter Verhaeghe at the blue line. Verhaeghe sends it to Aleksander Barkov. Once he makes his pass, Verhaeghe skates all the way to the net from the blue line. He then receives a world-class pass from his captain and just has to tap it in back door. The Lightning’s penalty kill was left puck-watching, completely forgetting Verhaeghe who had slid behind all four Tampa players.

Carter Verhaeghe Florida Panthers

The Panthers are up 2-1. With a little under two minutes left in the game, the Lighting pulled their goalie. Tkachuk then seals the deal with an empty-netter at 17:55 giving his team a two-goal lead. Tampa Bay does end up racking up an end-of-game goal, but it was too little too late. Steven Stamkos scores off a beautiful cross-crease pass from Nikita Kucherov on a late powerplay 10 seconds from the buzzer.

Panthers vs. Lightning: Game 1 Takeaways

The Panthers are now the better Florida team. They are the best defensive team at five on five, while being a lethal offensive threat. They are faster and deeper at every position. The bottom six in Tampa Bay isn’t as strong as it used to be, and their defense doesn’t compare to Florida’s, especially without Mikhail Sergachev. Both Russian goalies had a good performance in Game One and will look to stay consistent. It is a best-of-seven series, but it seems the Panthers might be favorites.

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