Sergei Bobrovsky makes 26 saves, Panthers beat Lightning 5-3 to take 3-0 series lead

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Panthers Jump Out To 3-0 Lead Over Lightning
Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (62) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) during the second period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves, Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Brandon Montour, Sam Reinhart and Steven Lorentz also scored for the Panthers, who will seek a sweep Saturday night in Tampa.

Tkachuk had a first-period goal and added an empty-netter with 32 seconds left.

“We’re playing some good hockey right now, and we’re happy with where we’re at right now in the series,” Tkachuk said. “The fourth (win) is the hardest, everyone says that, so we have to come out absolutely ready to go on Saturday.”

Steven Stamkos, Tyler Motte and Nicholas Paul scored for Tampa Bay, with Paul cutting it to 4-3 with 5:10 left. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots.

“It’s tough when you get in situations like this what you’re going to say right at this moment (to the team),” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But the talk is you want the believers to show up to the rink tomorrow. And if you’re not going to believe, then you don’t have to come. Well see how many guys show up tomorrow.”

Montour gave Florida a 3-2 lead on a blue-line shot with 3:30 left in the second, with Lorentz making it a two-goal game from the slot at 9:41 of the third.

After withstanding several minutes of sustained pressure at the defensive end, Florida tied it at 2 on Reinhart’s goal at 9:58 of the second.

Stamkos scored 44 seconds into the second before Motte put Tampa Bay up 2-1 just 2:12 later. The 34-year-old Stamkos is the ninth player 34 or older to score in each of his team’s first three playoff games, and the first since San Jose’s Patrick Marleau in 2014.

“I thought we played probably the best 10 minutes of the series right there,” Stamkos said of the first half of the second. “We were controlling the play. Then, it’s just little mistakes that are made are costing us.”

Stamkos also had six hits and made a nifty block on Vladimir Tarasenko’s empty-net try.

Thirty-two seconds after the Panthers killed off Tampa Bay’s second power play, Tkachuk opened the scoring midway through the first.

Tkachuk became the 12th U.S.born player to have 20 postseason goals in 50 or games or fewer. The list also includes his father, Keith Tkachuk.

Tampa Bay appeared to tie it with 18 seconds left in the first, but Anthony Cirelli’s goal on the Lightning’s third power play was disallowed following a video review found the play was offside.

The Lightning, with the NHL’s top regular-season power play, went 0 for 4. Florida did not have a power play.

I thought the big story will be penalty killing,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s just such a dominant, highly skilled, power play.”

With Florida forwards Sam Bennett (shot off hand) and Ryan Lomberg (illness) out, right wing Kyle Okposo, acquired from Buffalo in March, was inserted into the lineup and had an assist in his first playoff game since 2016.

“It’s just a special feeling,” Okposo said.

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