Game Three of the Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning has come and gone. One of the most unlikely of heroes has brought the Panthers a breath of fresh air. With under six minutes left in the first overtime, Ryan Lomberg scored a breakaway to secure the victory. Securing the Florida Panthers’ first playoff win in years. Now that the Panthers were able to secure a win, behind enemy lines no less, the series is long from over. Especially after two crushing defeats in Game’s One and Two against Tampa Bay. Now, bringing the series within one game after Thursday night’s overtime win, both teams know that this series has only just begun.
Mistakes Cost Games for Both Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning
Whether you have followed hockey your entire life, or you are a newer fan. There is one statement that will forever reign true in this great sport, “Hockey is a game of mistakes.” Whether we are talking about the youth level, collegiate, and/or professional ranks, hockey is a game of mistakes. The team that ends up making less of them usually ends up winning the game. If you have followed this series closely, you know that it is one of the storylines of the Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning.
During Game One, Brayden Point was left alone, streaking down the center of the ice. Thanks to Ryan McDonagh‘s heads-up play and the Panthers’ defence caught flat-footed, Point scored a breakaway goal with 1:15 left in the third. Securing the victory of the ‘Bolts.’ Fast forwarded to Game Two, and a similar situation happens. Down 2-1 with 1:30 left in the third period. Keith Yandle makes a highly questionable play that ends up as a turnover at center ice. Tampa Bay forward Yanni Gourde was there to capitalize on the mistake, giving the bolts another victory. Two days later, Lomberg ends up securing the Florida Panthers’ first overtime playoff win in 25-years. Beating both Tampa defencemen wide on a chip pass from Frank Vatrano, Lomberg ends up beating Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s top right to secure the victory. Giving the Panthers life in the series.
Looking toward Game Four, do not be surprised to see a similar storyline. With both teams playing evenly matched with skill and speed, this will be one of the series where the victor wants it more. Who is willing to go that extra mile? Now that the Panthers won a game, while away too, this series has all the potential to go the distance.
Goaltending Headlines Both Florida and Tampa Bay
The most significant difference between the Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning has genuinely come down to one factor. The goaltending. This writer emphasized how vital the goaltending battle will be in our Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning first-round preview. Coming down to one thing. The brutal honest fact that Vasilvskiy is worth ten million dollars, and no one expects Vasilevskiy to bend or break anytime soon. One cannot help but wonder if all these games played over the years are starting to get at him. Without the luxury of a capable backup, ‘Vasy‘ is constantly looked at as the guy. While on the other side Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky continue to battle for the starting position.
Now, if we were to look at all their performances, the numbers are not great. Bobrovsky has a .893 save percentage, Driedger has a .860 save percentage, and Vasilevskiy has a .908 save percentage. While these aren’t terrible numbers, there is no way that these results will get you a Stanley Cup. Yet, it is not for lack of trying. All three of these netminders have played relatively well for their teams. Sure, they all could play better, but it comes down to all the talent that is in front of them. There is so much skill on the ice between both teams that even Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek would have similar results. Basing things off the first three games, the goaltenders will be what makes or breaks this series.
The Sunshine State Stardom
Now that the Sunshine state showdown is about halfway through. Both organizations and the NHL needed this series more than they realized. Facing off for the first time in the playoffs, these games have been some of the most exciting to watch. With superstars on both teams leading the charge, the Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning series has the most goals and goals against all the other groups. Tampa had the luxury of bringing back Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos just in time for the playoffs. Both players on top five on the team in playoff points so far. Not to mention Victor Hedman and Brayden Point, who lead the teams in points with six and five, respectively. This has been a high-flying, high-scoring series.
On the other side of the ice, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau continue to set themselves apart as some of the greatest Florida Panther players ever. They are leading the team in both playoff and regular-season points. These two are noticeable every time they step foot on the ice. At the same time, “playoff Sam Bennett” has been worth every penny. Finding his groove early on with the Panthers. The change of scenery has been spectacular for Bennett. Add playoff hockey on top of that, and you have another incredible move by Bill Zito. Bringing them one step closer to eternal glory.
At the end of the day, the Battle of Florida has been everything we could have asked for. High flying, fast-paced, tons of scoring, and high intensity from both teams. The first-ever Sunshine State Showdown is one for the history books.
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