TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Killorn scored a pair of second-period goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning rebounded from its first postseason loss to rout the Florida Panthers 6-2 and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the first-round Central Division playoff matchup on Saturday.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions pushed their intrastate rivals to the brink of elimination by scoring three first-period goals, then building their advantage to 5-1 when Killorn beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky twice in a span of 94 seconds to break the game open.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and three assists, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 39 of 41 shots for the Lightning, who can wrap up the best-of-seven series by winning Game 5 in Sunrise, Florida, on Monday night.
Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored in the opening period for Tampa Bay, setting the tone for a rough afternoon for Bobrovsky, who earned his second start of the series by coming off the bench to win Game 4 in relief.
Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period and overtime as the Panthers rallied from a two-goal deficit to tighten the series with a 6-5 victory on Thursday night.
The Lightning scored on three of seven shots in the first period Saturday. The Panthers replaced Bobrovsky with Chris Driedger after Killorn scored on the power play and added another goal off a pass from Steven Stamkos to increase the lead to 5-1.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Carter Verhaeghe had power-play goals for Florida.
Kucherov has three goals and six assists in four playoff games after missing the entire regular season while recovering from hip surgery performed on Dec. 29. He and Stamkos, who had two assists Saturday, have at least one point in each game of the series.
The Lightning ended a four-game home losing streak in the playoffs with their first postseason win at Amalie Arena since Game 5 of the 2018 Eastern Conference final against the Washington Capitals.
The Lightning haven’t lost consecutive playoff games since being swept by Columbus in the first round in 2019. The defending Stanley Cup champions were 7-0 in games following a loss during the 2020 postseason.
ON THE BRINK
The Panthers will have to win three straight against the defending champs to end the franchise’s 25-year drought without a series win.
Florida’s Keith Yandle was a healthy scratch for the second time in the series. The 34-year-old defenseman also sat out Game 3.
The Lightning have never lost a series in which they won the first two games. They’re 11-3 after holding a 2-1 advantage. On the other hand, the Panthers have never rallied to win a series after dropping the first two games.