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National Hockey League: Florida Panthers beat Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2

National Hockey League: Florida Panthers beat Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2

Here's a sentence that's never been said: The Florida Panthers lead a series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

For the Panthers, it's a great way to start hostilities.

Carter Verhaeghe gave the Panthers the lead for good in the third period, helping his team to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Lightning on Sunday.

Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk also lit the red light for the Panthers, who are trying to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row.

Aleksander Barkov had two assists and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17 shots in the win.

This is the first time since 1997 that the Panthers have won the first game in the series in front of their home fans.

“The first game was pretty good,” Tkachuk said. Especially since we are on the winning side. »

Brandon Hagel and Steven Stamkos responded for the Lightning, who are trying to avoid a first-round exit for the second year in a row after making three consecutive Finals appearances. Andrei Vasilevsky made 25 saves.

This is the third playoff series between the two Florida clubs. The Lightning team achieved the advantage in six games in the first round in 2021, then swept its opponents in the second round the following year.

This defeat caused changes within the Panthers, who hired Paul Morris to implement a new style. They reached the Stanley Cup Final last year and won the Atlantic Division title this season.

“There is history between the two teams,” Barkov said. The last two times things were not good for us, but we want to change things now. We have a great opportunity to do that and it was unreal today. The atmosphere was very good throughout the season, but we missed the atmosphere of the series. »

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The second match of this series will be held on Tuesday evening.

Reinhart approaches Burri

Reinhart opened the scoring with a skillful deflection of Gustav Forsling's shot at 6:17 of the first period. In good position to take the point shot, Vasilevskiy saw the ball slide under his arm instead.

It was Reinhart's 58th goal of the season and series combined this season. Only Pavel Bure (59) has had better performances in the organization's history, in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001.

Hagel then tied the game with less than four minutes left in the first half. Bobrovsky made two saves in quick succession against Anthony Cirelli and Stamkos, but a second layup in the slot gave him no chance.

Verhaeghe put the local favorites back in front on a power play 58 seconds into the third period while Nicolas Paul was in the penalty box.

Positioned in the corner of the ice with the puck, Barkov waited patiently for Verhaeghe to come from the point. He found it at the mouth of the net, and Verhaeghe had to redirect the ball behind Vasilevskiy.

“I didn't even see the pass,” Verhaeghe noted. The puck just hit the blade of my stick. It shows how well Parky can pass the ball. »

Tkachuk scored into an empty net, but Verhaeghe was penalized for a double check on Nikita Kucherov with 71 seconds left.

Stamkos took the opportunity to close the gap. But with 10 seconds left, it was too little, too late.

“It was a close game up front,” Lightning coach John Cooper noted. In the end, a powerful goal made the difference. »

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