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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Try to Avoid Lightning Power Play



Panthers lightning
Sergei Bobrovsky, here making a really nice save against the Lightning, is ultimately Florida’s best penalty killer. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

FORT LAUDERDALE — To stop the Tampa Bay Lightning’s gauntlet of a power play, the Florida Panthers know they have to do two things: Don’t take penalties and don’t let them get clean zone entries when they do.

Coach Paul Maurice certainly echoes that sentiment.

“Don’t take many, would be my advice,” he said. “They are just so dynamic.

“It’s a function of incredible players, but they played together for so long, they are reacting not just on what they see but on their history of things they’ve done and had success with, so they have so many options each one touches the puck.”

Tampa Bay had the best power play in the league for a good reason.

Nikita Kucherov scored 53 of his 144 points on the power play, with many of his 40 power play assists going to Steven Stamkos, who was tied for third in the league with 19 power play goals.

Add in Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Nick Paul — who all made deep playoff runs together — and Tampa Bay’s power play has been near automatic at a 28.6 percent clip.

“We look at the video, we try to break their power play down, but they have a lot of threats anywhere you look on the ice,” Dmitry Kulikov said.

“They have a 144-point guy, they have Stamkos who scores one-timers every time he shoots, so we’re just trying not to let them set up in the first place. Don’t try to give them time and space to do those plays and hopefully Bobby makes a save.”

But for the most part, the Panthers did a good job of both in their 3-2 Game 1 victory over the Lightning.

Florida held Tampa Bay to one shot and zero scoring chances of any kind in its lone 5-on-4 power play of the game.

But Stamkos reminded the Panthers just how dangerous that Lightning power play is on a 6-on-4 with the net empty, ripping home a one-timer from his office with 9.3 seconds to go.

“You have to be on your toes all the time,” Kevin Stenlund said. “They’re skilled guys, so you have to be on them. Don’t give them much time and be hard.”

On that power play just after the midway point of the second period, the Panthers did a good job of getting on top of it and denying the Lightning any space.

After Tampa Bay won the offensive zone draw and got one weak shot on net which Sergei Bobrovsky denied with his blocker, the Panthers were on them like hawks whenever they entered the neutral zone with the puck.

Stenlund, Eetu Luostarinen and Sam Reinhart each wedged pucks away near the boards on multiple zone entries, cleared the zone and started the cycle again every time a Lightning player picked the puck back up and tried again.

It wasn’t until the 6-on-4 that Tampa Bay rattled off a couple of shots and Kucherov seamed a pass through traffic to find Stamkos for their lone power play goal of the game.

“I think they’re the best team at the shot fake where you bite on the shot and it goes back into the seam or i goes back over across the top,” Maurice said. “They’re so good.

”So, it’s going to be shot lanes and goaltending and then being as aggressive as we possibly can in the times that we can be aggressive. In the first one, there wasn’t really a place to be aggressive early because they kind of had complete control. We sat in there and it’s not what we want to do but that’s what you have to do when they have control of the puck.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

  • When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Local TV/National TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN2/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • First Round (Panthers Lead 1-0) — Game 1: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Sunday); Game 2: Tuesday at Florida, 7:30 (BSF, ESPN2); Game 3: Thursday at Tampa Bay, 7 (BSF, TBS); Game 4: Saturday Ap. 27 at Tampa Bay, 5 (BSF, TBS, TruTV); Game 5*:Monday Ap. 29 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 6*: Wednesday May 1 at Tampa Bay, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 7*:Saturday May 4 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA). (*) — If necessary
  • 2023-24 Regular Season Series (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27)Panthers 9, Lightning 2 (Feb. 17). At Florida: Lightning 5, Panthers 3 (March 16).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 77-51-19, 10 ties
  • All-Time Postgame Series: Lightning Leads 2-0 (2021 first-round, 2022 ECS)

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