The Tampa Bay Lightning could not have created a better scenario to start their second playoff matchup with the Florida Panthers than what unfolded Tuesday night.
After a so-so first period, the Lightning throttled the Panther’s offense and was able to take advantage of three Florida penalties as the Lightning defeated the Panthers 4-1 to take a one-game lead in the series.
The Lightning fourth line of Corey Perry, Pierre-Eduoard-Bellmare, and Pat Maroon combined for two goals and two assists in the win in Sunrise.
Nikita Kucherov and Ross Colton added the two other Lightning goals.
The Panthers can ill afford to go down two games to nothing to this Lightning team. With a win Thursday night, the Lightning could be looking at a series that could be over in four or five games.
The alarming stat coming from the Panther’s side is the lack of offense on the power play. In seven games this postseason, the panthers are 0-21 on the power play.
This from a team that was the highest-scoring team in the NHL during the regular season. It’s unexplainable what has happened to the Panther power play this postseason.
Nikita Kucherov is getting hot, which is bad news for the Florida Panthers.
Kucherov, who was injured the first part of the season, hadn’t looked like the Kucherov of past seasons until the last few games.
Everyone seems to have forgotten what a dynamic playmaker Kucherov is.
The assist on the Corey Perry goal was one of the best moves that Kucherov has made in a long time. Aaron Ekblad, the Florida defenseman, is still looking for his skates.
That move to set up Perry was vintage Kucherov. He is looking better and better the deeper the Lightning goes into the postseason.
Jon Cooper talked about that play in his post-game press conference. “That was effortless. I’ve always said about Kuch, he knows what the guy he’s going against is going to do before they do. He made that one look easy.”
Corey Perry is still shaking his head at the magic that Kucherov can weave night in and night out. That’s a world-class play. It’s a hell of a play. Inside-out on the D-man, slides it over, and I think the goalie was in the corner. I just shake my head. Like I said, I shake my head sometimes.”
It’s easy to run out of adjectives at times when describing the play of Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov is once again proving that he is one of the best players in the world when healthy.
He has three goals and seven assists in this playoff run and has 13 career playoff points against the Panthers.
Kucherov is also the third active player to have 40 multi-point games in the playoffs trailing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Ryan McDonagh set a new NHL playoff record for blocked shots in the playoffs with five blocked shots on Tuesday night. McDonagh now has 387 blocked shots in his playoff career, passing former Lightning Dan Giardi, who previously held the record with 382.
This team looks dialed in. They have won three playoff games in a row, and the sloppy play, inattentiveness, and lack of moving the skates seem to have subsided for the time being.
The Lightning knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. It starts with defense and a commitment to doing the little things that help your team win, and this team is doing all that and more right now.
The Lightning is playing like defending Stanley Cup champions and will look to take control of this series with a win Thursday night in Sunrise against the Panthers.
I would expect a great effort from the Panthers tonight from the opening face-off. The Panthers have nothing to lose, and their season could hang in the balance with a loss in game two.