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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sam Bennett is Out, Florida Panthers Ask Anton Lundell to Step Up



Florida panthers
Florida Panthers center Anton Lundell celebrates after he scored the winning goal in overtime against Ottawa on Feb. 20 in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With Sam Bennett to miss at least a week due to injury, the Florida Panthers now need Anton Lundell to step up and fill his role on the second line.

The 22-year-old has shown to be more than capable of doing so.

Lundell finished with four goals and six points in his final seven regular season games.

After a season of ups and downs, his confidence is peaking at the right time.

“I‘ve been able to step up my game even more,” Lundell said. “I’m just trying to work hard and believe good things will happen when I do the right things.”

Lundell got his first point of the playoffs in style, too.

In overtime on Tuesday, Lundell threaded a pass past four defenders to the stick of Carter Verhaeghe, who waited out Andrei Vasilevskiy and roofed the puck on his backhand to give the Panthers a 3-2 win in Game 2.

The Panthers visit the Lightning tonight, holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

“It was pretty early in overtime, [Matthew Tkachuk] got the rebound and he passed it right to me,” Lundell said.

“I just tried to make a play to Swaggy when I saw he was in full speed behind the defensemen. What a great move by Swaggy, and an important goal for us for sure.”

Lundell has become comfortable playing with Tkachuk and Verhaeghe over the past two years.

Bennett has missed time with injuries in each of the past two regular seasons and Lundell has gotten the call to fill in each time.

He knows what it takes to play with those two elite talents.

“Obviously, we don’t want anybody to get hurt or be away, but at the same time, we all know each other,” Lundell said.

“We have played with each other before, so I will try to do my best. Obviously, they are good players and I’m just trying to do everything I can to make the wingers I play with their best.”

Lundell now gets a chance next to two elite linemates.

Tkachuk is one of the best playmakers in the league with skilled hands around the net while Verhaeghe possesses one of the most dangerous shots in the league.

Lundell knows he has to adjust his game to help them out.

“Every line is a little different,” Lundell said. “Some guys want to keep the puck a little more, some guys aren’t that simple.

“For me, it’s all about trying to read and know who I’m playing with and trying to adjust as good as I can to make me and them play even better. So I have learned a lot throughout the year, and obviously, last year’s playoffs was a huge experience for myself. I know I’m able to playa against everybody in this league and we were able to win some tough games, so it just gives a lot of motivation for me and our team as well.”

Lundell has proven to be able to add to that as well.

He is skilled in the defensive zone, can help kill penalties when needed and has the playmaking ability to help his linemates out.

Just as he did on Verhagehe’s overtime winner.

And he learned a lot about himself during the Panthers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final last year.

“It’s all about the long run,” Lundell said. “It’s not a sprint at all.

“Even if you don’t get the result you want in the first game, it’s not going to be the end of the world. You need to stay with it and never give up. I think that’s the thing we learned.

“In the games, you just need to wait for a moment, be patient. Like yesterday, it came in overtime and we were able to score. That’s what playoffs are.”

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

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa 
  • Local TV/National TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/TBS/HBOMax
  • 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; Game 2:Florida 3, Tampa Bay 2 OT; Game 3: Thursday at Tampa Bay, 7 (BSF, TBS); Game 4: Saturday at Tampa Bay, 5 (BSF, TBS, TruTV); Game 5*: Monday 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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