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Sergei Bobrovsky Saves the Day for the Panthers in Tampa

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Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save as Evan Rodrigues and Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli look on during the third period of Florida’s 3-2 win in Tampa on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

TAMPA — Midway through the third, Brayden Point was on a breakaway with a golden opportunity to tie the score against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers.

Bobrovsky had other plans.

Bobrovsky stopped the puck with his outstretched glove on Point’s wrist shot, which seemed destined to be beating him on top shelf.

It was one of many key third-period saves Bobrovsky made to help the Panthers secure a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

“He is unreal,” captain Sasha Barkov told Bally Sports Florida’s Katie Engleson.

“He is giving us a chance to win every game and today was unreal by him. He stopped a lot of good scoring chances, especially in the third, so he gave us a chance and we took it.”

Both goaltenders had to step up in this season’s first edition of the Battle of Florida.

With the teams in front of them coming off of the NHL’s three-day holiday break and having to shake off the rust, both Bobrovsky and star Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy faced some high-quality chances.

“I think there was a lot of good in some defensive parts of the game, but that game was really well-played,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

“Then it was chance after chance, it got into some flurries at both ends. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but if it weren’t for the goaltenders, 3-2 would have been 7-6 on some of the chances ,

“Both goalies made some huge saves, but we’ll take it. It was the first game after Christmas, and you never know what you get there.”

After Vasilevskiy won those battles astoundingly in the team’s second-round face-off in 2022, it was Bobrovsky’s turn to shine.

A deflected Aaron Ekblad shot 4:16 into the first period and a slick passing play, which Sam Reinhart finished off with his 20th goal of the season 1:23 into the second, gave his Panthers a 2-0 edge.

But Bobrovsky had to make several big saves to keep them ahead.

”He was insane today,” Evan Rodrigues said.

“He made a huge save at the end of the second to keep it 2-0 on a shot right in between the hash marks and he made huge saves today. He tracked deflections, his rebound control was good, and he was on top of his game today.”

The Lightning kicked things up a notch in the third period.

A quick rebound goal by Nikita Kucherov, 29 seconds into the third period, quickly intensified things.

Reinhart seemed to silence things with his second goal of the game, a top-shelf breakaway goal on the penalty kill 3:11 in, but that only lasted 20 seconds.

Micheal Eyssimont brought the Lightning back within a goal with a quick one off the rush.

After that?

Bobrovsky stopped the final eight shots he faced from a Tampa team that generated 11 scoring chances and five high-danger chances.

Vasilevskiy had his moments, too, including a big sprawling blocker save late in the third period to keep the Lightning within a goal.

But it was Bobrovsky’s night, and the Panthers walked away with their 20th win of the season.

“It’s always a rivalry and Tampa is a great team,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s a great fight.”

ON DECK

NEW YORK RANGERS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

Panthers rangers

  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season — At Florida: Friday. At MSG: March 4; March 24.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 60-32-8, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.

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