SUNRISE – Facing a 0-1 series deficit, the Florida Panthers were back on home ice Thursday night, trying to even the series before the two-game trip in Tampa.
What was a close game for most of the night ended in heartbreak for Florida as Tampa scored the game-winning goal with 3.8 seconds left in regulation. Tampa would take this one 2-1.
Florida goes to Tampa down 0-2 in the series and truly have an uphill battle waiting for them if they want to advance in this postseason.
Onto the takeaways.
The Lightning power play strikes again
Game 1 was a nightmare for Panthers’ fans, especially if there was a Lightning power play involved. Tampa went 3/6 on the PP in Game 1.
In Game 2, Tampa wasted no time getting back into the power play groove. With the game scoreless, Brandon Montour was sent to the box for hooking Ross Colton of the Lightning.
Less than a minute into the power play, Corey Perry scored his second PP goal of the series after deflecting a Steven Stamkos shot past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Through two periods, that power play goal was the only time Tampa saw the back of the net. They’ve actually scored more goals on the power play this series than when they are even strength (Two even strength, four power plays).
But in a close game like tonight, that one power play goal was enough to be the difference. Tampa took advantage of at least one power play opportunity tonight, Florida didn’t.
Luostarinien and Forsling didn’t let yesterday’s World Championship result get in the way of their tying goal
When Sweden and Finland faced off yesterday in the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the Swedes bested the Finns in a shootout.
For supporters of both countries, they’d be happy to know that Florida’s tying goal was set up by a Swede, Gustav Forsling, and finished by a Finn, Eetu Luostarinen.
Enough about the friendly international hockey rivalry, it was a great two-man play by the pair.
Forsling led the rush into the Lightning zone and dropped the puck off for Luostarinen, who was waiting atop the blueline.
Lusotarinen leaned into a slapshot and it found its way underneath the body of Andrei Vasilevskiy, tying the game at 1.
This was a great setup and nice finish, however, it would be the only time Florida found the back of the net all night.
Let me write about the power play… again
Yes we are going to talk about it. The power play struck out again tonight, going 0/4 on the man advantage.
Florida is now 0/7 in the series and 0/25 in the playoffs through eight games.
The worst part about tonight’s power play was the fact that Florida had an opportunity to take the lead with under three minutes to go in the game. Instead, Florida failed to convert on their fourth power play of the night and Tampa would make them pay minutes later, winning the game with 3.8 seconds left off a Ross Colton goal.
I said in the pregame show, if Florida doesn’t score on the power play, they are going to lose the series. Well, they are two games down, lost both games on home ice, and are still goalless on the power play.
10 seconds is all it takes…
With just seconds remaining in the third, overtime was looming in Sunrise.
The Lightning just killed off another Panthers power play but the crowd was still energetic for what seemed to be another Panthers OT appearance.
Tampa had possession in Florida’s zone with 10 seconds left in the third. Lightning forward Nikita Kucheerov was with the puck behind the Florida net when Gustav Forsling approached him from the right side. His D partner MacKenzie Weegar simultaneously approached Kucerhov from the left, leaving the front of goal unaccounted for.
Kucherov slipped a behind the back pass to Ross Colton who was in alone of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Colton fired the puck over Bobrovsky, giving the Lightning a 2-1 lead with 3.8 seconds left in the game.
This goal would be the game winner, giving Tampa a 2-0 series lead.
Two series against Tampa, back-to-back 0-2 deficits
Last season Tampa came into Sunrise and made their presence felt, taking Florida’s first two home games of the playoffs from them.
This year, the same exact thing happened. Florida being the higher seed had home ice advantage. Well, it was supposed to be an advantage before they lost both home games in round 2, going down 0-2 in the series.
Looking back to last year, Ryan Lomberg and his OT heroics in Game 3 kept the Panthers in the series after they were down 0-2 on the road. Now the Panthers are in the same situation down two games heading to the defending champions barn.
This team has shown all season that they can do the unthinkable, whether its comeback wins, or not scoring on the power play but winning a series. But this will be the most difficult task to date, trying to steal games from the back-to-back champions in their home arena.
Game 3 is Sunday and Game 4 is Monday. Yes, a back-to-back in a playoff series.