Bolts blow lead against Panthers in playoffs

by Gary Shelton on May 21, 2021

in general

Cirelli snapped a 27-game streak without a goal. /CHUCK MULLER

They were at home, which used to mean something in the NHL. They led going into the third period, which used to mean everything. They had chased the opposing team's goalie from the ice.

And they lost.

They had a period for the ages. They seemed poised to deliver the kill shot and go up 3-0 in the series. They had the other team down to hope and desperation.

And they lost.

The Tampa Bay Lightning let a commanding series lead slip through their fingers Thursday night at Amalie Arena, losing 6-5 in overtime to a Panthers' team that at times seemed faster and hungrier than they did. The Panthers got off 47 shots before Ryan Lomberg ended it in overtime.

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For the Bolts, it was the kind of loss that leaves a team talking to itself. The Bolts went from down by two goals to up by two goals to losing on home ice.

“We didn’t get to dictate the play as we wanted to," said Lighting coach Jon Cooper. "There have been a lot of ebbs and flows in this series, a lot of lead changes. It’s two pretty offensive teams that can put the puck in the net. Sometimes the defensive side can get skewed a lot.

"I think we looked up  and thought we could defend our way out of it. We don’t want to change the way we play. I don’t think anyone expected this to be a sweep. I think everyone expected it to be a good series and it has been. "

Despite the competitiveness of the games, the Bolts seemed poise to go ahead 3-0 after scoring five goals in the second period. That gave the team a 5-3 lead, which seemed to be plenty when you remember the Bolts had been 28-0 when leading after two periods.

Not this time. The Panthers scored early in the third period, and again with three minutes to play to force overtime.

"We sat back too much in the third," said Victor Hedman. "I thought we were kind of protecting the lead and not playing to our strengths.  We weren’t happy the way we played in the third. We weren’t good enough in the third. That’s the bottom line."

Tampa Bay scored five goals in the second period to set a franchise record for most goals in a playoff period. Scoring for the Bolts were Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Alex Killorn.

The Bolts seemed to be passive in the third period, however, and the Panthers clawed their way back into the series.

The Lightning and Panthers will play Game Four Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Amalie Arena.

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