SUNRISE, Fla. — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, Andrei Vasilevskiy remained fiery with 34 saves and the Tampa Bay Lightning outscored the Florida Panthers 4-1 in Game 1. of an Eastern Conference semifinal series Tuesday night.
Nikita Kucherov and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist, and Ross Colton also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who took a 1-0 lead against their state rivals for the second season. consecutive.
Time and time again, Vasilevskiy has slammed the door on Florida. In his last three games – all won, including Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday – he has stopped 94 of 99 shots.
Anthony Duclair scored the goal for Florida, the Presidents’ Trophy winner, which got 32 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky. Including the qualifying round that took place when the NHL restarted during the pandemic in 2020, Florida has lost seven straight Game 1s – a streak dating back to 1997.
Game 2 is Thursday night.
Duclair, a 31-goal scorer, was retired by Florida for their game-clinching series win at Washington, but was back on Tuesday and gave his team the lead by scoring on a Jonathan Huberdeau pass at 2:01 p.m. from the first.
Duclair’s goal came after the Panthers killed off a pair of early penalties – one from MacKenzie Weegar and the other from Duclair – as special teams became a factor in the game.
Florida went 0-for-18 on the powerplay in the series win over the Capitals and was scoreless on three more tries on Tuesday. But Tampa Bay cashed three of its six opportunities.
After Kucherov was snagged by Weegar, he rounded Aaron Ekblad and fed Perry for a goal scored at 16:22 of the second period.
Bellemare’s goal came 3:35 into the third period, giving Tampa Bay its first lead of the game – and the Lightning held it until the end. The Lightning won a faceoff in the Florida zone and Perry fired a quick shot from the slot that Bobrovsky stopped, but the rebound sprung directly at Bellemare.
He beat Bobrovsky on the glove side for a 2-1 lead.
It appeared, for a moment, that Florida ended its long power-play drought and tied the score when Duclair scored on a loose puck. Tampa Bay disputed, saying the puck went out of the net and was therefore out of play. Video review confirmed this, and the Lightning went on to lead 2-1.
It was the last hurray for Florida. Tampa Bay undoubtedly left late, with Kucherov and Colton each getting power-play counts in the final 4:06 to put the game away.
New York Post