Panthers extend playoff series vs. Bolts

by Gary Shelton on May 25, 2021

in general

Cooper's team faces a test on Wednesday./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

For the Florida Panthers, hope is barely 20 years old. It wears jersey No. 30. And for the most part, the Panthers seemed to forget he was hanging around.

Then again, desperation makes a team do funny things.

The Panthers, disappointed in goalies Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger, looked to young Spencer Knight to play goalie. He gave up a goal in his first 53 seconds.

After that, however, the kid was solid, stopping 36 Tampa Bay Lighting shots over the next 59 minutes and seven seconds. It wasn't the best goaltending in history, but it was solid, and on a night the Bolts didn't swarm the net, it was good enough to keep a playoff series going.

The Panthers beat the Bolts, 4-1. They now play Game Six on Wednesday night in Tampa at Amalie Arena. If the Panthers can win again -- and the

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Bolts haven't lost two in a row in the playoffs in the last two seasons -- the teams return to Sunrise on Friday night.

Despite their early lead, the Bolts looked slower, more deliberate than the Panthers. The Lightning took three penalties in the first period and never did seem to recover.

"It’s killing us," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the penalties. "It’s killing our game. It’s killing our momentum. We did a really good job getting out of that first period up a goal, but you can’t keep giving them freebies.

"We definitely have to take fewer penalties. For whatever reason, they don’t take many. It seems like we’re the only ones taking them."

After getting 20 shots in the first period, the Bolts were badly outplayed in the second.

”I thought we had a really good start to the game," Stamkos said. "Penalties came back to bite us in the butt. We were a little undisciplined. We had to kill off three. It kind of sucked some momentum from us.

"(After the first), we didn’t have many scoring chances, to be honest. We’ll review the tape and we know we have to be better. We’re going to grind a little harder in those tough areas to create some second and third chances. I didn’t think we had many tonight."

Forward Brayden Point thought the Panthers were faster.

 “I think we just stopped winning races -- moving our feet," Point said. "We started to play a little slower in the neutral zone. We dumped a lot of pucks in tonight and they started winning races.

"We’re trying to close out the series and they’re trying to extend it. Both teams should be desperate. I thought they were tonight. We’ve got to be better in Game Six. We’ve got to bring that intensity.  We’ve got to bring that desperation a little more."

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy continued to be haunted by the Panthers. He stopped 34 of 27 shots.

"Maybe we took a breath," Cooper said. "You could see they had desperation. They’re down a goal. and they’re on the brink. They elevated and we didn’t. It was disappointing giving up that second goal late (in the second period). If we to to the third tied who know what happens?

"If we’re going to win, we can’t be on and off. We’ve got to be on our game the entire game."

Wednesday night's game starting time has not been announced.

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