Panthers at Lightning, Game 4 of first round


No. 2 Panthers at No. 3 Lightning

12:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL

Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the Florida Panthers when they try to even the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup First Round at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Bobrovsky made nine saves after relieving Chris Driedger at the start of the third period in Game 3 on Thursday, helping the Panthers rally for a 6-5 overtime win.

“I have to commend ‘Bob’ on how he handled it right from the get-go,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said. “Bob was excited about the challenge when he got put in the game, and I don’t know if I have ever seen him happier than that after the game.”

It will be the second start for Bobrovsky this series after he allowed five goals on 40 shots in Game 1, a 5-4 loss. Driedger started Game 2 and made 26 saves in a 3-1 loss. He then got the start in Game 3 but allowed five goals on 12 shots in the second period.

After Bobrovsky replaced Driedger, the Panthers were able to tie it on goals from Patric Hornqvist and Gustav Forsling in the third period before Ryan Lomberg won it on a breakaway at 5:56 of overtime.

It was the first time the Lightning lost a game when leading after two periods this season. They were previously 28-0-0, including 2-0 through the first two games of the series.

“Obviously, going on our [Stanley Cup] run last year we saw the ups and downs you go through in a playoffs,” Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli said. “We did some video, looked at it, see what we could do better, and now it’s in the past. At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. It happened. That’s how it went. We have to be refocused and ready for next game.”

Teams that lead 2-1 are 362-154 (.702) winning a best-of-7 series. The Lightning are 11-3 winning a best-of-7 series they lead 2-1.

Here are 3 keys to Game 4:


1. Vasilevskiy needs to find Vezina form

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy last season and is one of the favorites to be a finalist again this season, has a 3.56 goals-against average and .908 save percentage this series, including allowing four goals in Game 1 and six in Game 3. 

It’s the same Panthers teams that gave Vasilevskiy the hardest time in the regular season. They were the only opponent he had a losing record against (2-4-0), and his 3.36 GAA was the highest among the seven teams he played from the Discover Central Division.

“To give up the chances we gave up [Thursday] night, you could have Vasilevskiy on steroids and it doesn’t matter,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “There’s only so much he can do. I think he’s been exceptional for us. He gives us a chance to win every night. I just think we can play a tighter game in front of him.”


2. Bobrovsky’s second chance

Bobrovsky’s relief performance in Game 3 helped the Panthers get a win. Now, they need him to deliver from the start of Game 4 to get back even in the series.

Bobrovsky has history on his side. He has been the winning goalie in each of the past three playoff games at Amalie Arena, including Games 1 and 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round, when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.


3. Tampa Bay’s response

The Lightning didn’t like how they played in the third period of Game 3, lamenting that they sat back too much and, as Cooper said, “tried to defend their way out of it.”

The Panthers instead dictated the majority of the play and tied the game. 

It was the first time the Lightning lost a playoff game they led going into the third period since Game 1 against the Blue Jackets two years ago, when they allowed three goals in a 4-3 loss. They were 10-0 in such circumstances last postseason.

“I’m not worried when it comes to responding after a loss like this,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “I’m not worried about us going back in Saturday and having a good game.”


Panthers projected lineup

Carter VerhaegheAleksander BarkovAnthony Duclair

Jonathan HuberdeauSam BennettOwen Tippett

Frank Vatrano — Alex Wennberg — Patric Hornqvist

Ryan Lomberg — Noel AcciariMason Marchment

Gustav Forsling — MacKenzie Weegar

Markus NutivaaraBrandon Montour

Anton StralmanRadko Gudas

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Spencer Knight, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Gusev, Juho Lammikko, Keith Yandle, Eetu Luostarinen, Lucas Wallmark, Aleksi Heponiemi, Grigori Denisenko, Sam Montembeault, Philippe Desrosiers, Brady Keeper, Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt

Injured: Aaron Ekblad (leg)


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatBrayden PointNikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos

Ross ColtonYanni GourdeBlake Coleman

Pat MaroonTyler JohnsonMathieu Joseph

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevDavid Savard

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Cal Foote, Mitchell Stephens, Gemel Smith, Christopher Gibson, Spencer Martin, Fredrik Claesson, Ben Thomas, Alex Barre-Boulet, Daniel Walcott, Andreas Borgman, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Luke Schenn

Injured: Barclay Goodrow (upper body)


Status report

Hedman, Kucherov and Vasilevskiy (maintenance) did not practice Friday but Cooper said all three will play. … Yandle, a defenseman, is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … The Lightning could choose to play seven defensemen. If they do, Schenn would likely go in for Joseph. correspondent Corey Long contributed to this story.

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