Bolts jump to 1-0 lead over Panthers

by Gary Shelton on May 18, 2022

in general

Kucherov was impressive in victory./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

When the Florida Panthers turn off the light at night, do they see the faces of the Tampa Bay Lightning hover over them?

Do they see the looming features of Andrei Vasilevskiy, the goalie who has denied them so often? Do they see the eyes of Nikita Kucherov, who haunted them a year ago? Do they see the calm profile of coach Jon Cooper?

For the second straight season, the Panthers finished ahead of the Lightning in the regular-season standings. But last year, the Bolts beat the Panthers 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

Monday night, the Bolts won 4-1 in the opener of the second round of the playoffs. Can the Panthers help but wonder if it's a matter of "here we go again?"

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Vasi has been strong in two straight games./TIM WIRT

Oh, as the Bolts would have pointed out had they lost, there is a lot of the series remaining, and the Panthers remain explosive. But many more nights like Monday, and the Bolts are sure to get in the heads of the Panthers' playoffs.

The Bolts took away Florida's home-ice advantage with the win. They got standout play from Vasilevskiy, three power-play goals, outstanding penalty killing and solid defense in the win. Vasilevskiy stopped 33 of 34 shots.

Then there was Kucherov, who had a goal and a dazzling assist when he darted through the Panthers defense and fed Corey Perry for a layup goal.

“That was effortless," Cooper said. "We've always said about Kuch: He knows what the guy he’s going against is going to do before he does. He made that one look easy."

Cooper also praised the Bolts' ability to block shots. (They had 16 of them.

"It's commitment," Cooper said. "We talk about passion. Go down the list of this. Foote's block. Sergachev's block. Cernak's block. Killer's block. You need that to win a game. The goaltender will tell you that.:

The Bolts fell behind 1-0, but Perry's goal tied the game going into the final period.

Tampa Bay then pulled away with goals by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kucherov and Ross Colton.

The Lightning will play against the Panthers again Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the  FLA Live Arena.

Cernak was injured blocking a shot./JEFFREY S. KING

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