The opening act of the first-ever Sunshine State Showdown playoff series between the Panthers and Lightning sure didn’t disappoint.
Actually, it dazzled.
This Game 1 between the rival Panthers and Lightning on Sunday night was everything we anticipated, and more.
It was like an entire seven games was rolled up into one dramatic 5-4 Lightning victory at BB&T Center.
It had bone-crushing hits, nasty skirmishes, stellar saves by both Vezina Trophy-winning goalies (Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy) and red-light specials from both teams’ superstars — Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau for the Panthers and Nikita Kucherov for the Lightning.
Not to mention five lead changes, two of them in the final period.
“Very intense game,” a hoarse Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said afterward. “It was a heck of a hockey game.”
If you’re a hockey fan with no dog in this fight, you were no doubt saying after the start to this first-round series, ‘I’ll take six more of these, please.’