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Florida Panthers Three Stars in Game 2

The second matchup in the ‘Battle of Florida‘ was a nail-biter. The victory was partly thanks to the Florida Panthers three stars in Game 2. As exciting as advertised, the game was decided in sudden-death overtime. It was an all-around team effort for the win and the 2-0 series lead for the Panthers. However, some high points in Paul Maurice’s team are worth mentioning.

Florida Panthers Three Stars in Game 2

Bobrovsky, You Are Back on the Case!

Did anybody else have flashbacks to last season? Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show. The Russian netminder registered 21 saves, but it is not as much about the quantity as it was the quality. High-danger chances were snagged by Bob in great fashion. During Tampa Bay‘s most menacing moments, he never lost his composure and kept the Panthers alive. Game two of the Florida-Tampa series was a standoff between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky, the latter prevailed. No doubt in anyone’s mind, that every Panthers fan was reminiscing of last year’s game one against the Carolina Hurricanes. It seemed no team would score again on these goalies. This time, fortunately, one overtime period was enough.

Coming Up Big When it Mattered Most

Fans from every team in the NHL were put on notice last night. Bobrovsky had the save of the year. After a shot ricocheted off the end boards Steven Stamkos fed the puck to Matt Dumba who had an open look in the backdoor. His backhand shot was destined to give the Lightning the 3-2 lead. But Bob pulled off a highway robbery. No confirmation on whether or not Bobrovsky has eyes on in the back of his head. Because what he did next should not be physically possible. With his back to the play, Bob took a leap of faith and, somehow some way, saved the puck with his elbow. The arena erupted. That save stole the show, but there were many more as valuable, nevertheless.

Two breakaway chances, from Anthony Cirelli and Anthony Duclair, were stopped by Sergei with last-second efforts. The one on Duclair was almost at the buzzer. With less than a minute left in regulation time. During the Duke’s breakaway, it was hard not to remember Brayden Point‘s GWG in Game 1 of the 2021 playoffs when these two teams met.

Bobrovsky made the final stand. The Panthers were able to hold on and get to overtime. And once in it, there was one name everybody expected to turn it up a notch. And did he.

Carter Clutch Verhaeghe Game 2 Florida Panthers Stars

Mister Overtime. Carter Verhaeghe is the answer. With his Winning Goal in Game 2, he became the sixth player in NHL history to score at least five overtime goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  ‘Swaggy’ as his nickname suits him perfectly. Vasilevskiy had played lights out all night long. Only Verhaeghe could shatter his resistance once he found his mojo. The Panthers forecheck paid off when Matthew Tkachuk won a puck battle near the boards and gave possession to Anton Lundell with a great spin move. The Finnish forward fed Verhaeghe who glided to the crease. With a display of great patience, he waited for Vasilevskiy to go down and showcased a sweet backhander to the top of the net. Just like that, as cool as possible, Carter ended the game and gave the Cats the 2-0 series  lead.

His game is at its best when the stakes are higher. That is the definition of being clutch. He came close to scoring many times during the game, and while that could tear down any player when the puck will not go in, it does not apply to number 23. In a roster filled with superstars, any player could be the hero but it seems that role is reserved to Verhaeghe and Tkachuk. That does not mean Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, or Vladimir Tarasenko should be left uncovered, though. But whenever he is on the ice, teams better have a patrol on Carter Verhaeghe, because he simply has a knack for these moments.

Sam Bennett: Left It All on the Ice

Sam Bennett was the Florida Panthers third star in Game 2. His first period was superb, textbook playoff hockey. And his performance translated immediately to the scoresheet. He scored the opening goal in a play he started. Entering the zone with a good move around the defender, skated to the goal line, and sent a pass back to the front of the net. That is where good things happen. Brandon Hagel cross-checked Tkachuk into Vasilevskiy. With the goaltender out of position came Bennett, who found the loose puck and cashed it to the back of the net. Bennett had started and finished the play. His next great appearance was on a Panthers power play as he fed Tarasenko who just fanned on the puck with an open look. He eventually got that assist.

In the next PP chance, Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent a slapshot into the net. Bennett found the loose puck, again, and served it to Tarasenko who did not miss this time. Bennett was the Panthers X-Factor. However, sports is unpredictable. In the blink of an eye, injuries can happen. Sometimes in unimaginable ways, such as a friendly fire from an own teammate. Brandon Montour filled the power bar on a slapshot and it hit Bennett’s up high, perhaps in the hand. He immediately dropped his stick and made his way to the locker room tunnel. Not what the Panthers needed from their best player so far in Game 2.

Bennett did not return for the night and has been ruled out for “a lengthy period of time”. Which is none to reassuring of a phrase to use when describing a playoff injury timeline. The second line centerman is a key piece to the team and could be a huge loss when the Panthers visit Tampa Bay next Thursday. Anton Lundell filled in game two, will he do the same in game three, that is yet to be determined.

Honourable Mention

Brandon Montour has played on a contract year and was the target of many critics all season. Coming off a long-term injury, he seemed to lose a step on his previous season form. That has not been the case so far in the playoffs. Both in games one and two he has been at a great level and has shutdown plenty of the Lightning’s in transition plays. Not quite make the list of Florida Panthers stars in Game 2, but he has been an important factor to both home triumphs. His speed, as well as Gustav Forsling‘s. allow them to keep pace with Tampa’s forwards and has made the job a little bit easier for the rest of the team.

Main photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


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