Brayden Point scored two late goals, including the game-winner with 1:14 left in the third period, to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night in Game 1 of their playoff series.
Nikita Kucherov scored two power-play goals in his first appearance of the season, and Blake Coleman scored a short-handed goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves and Victor Hedman had three assists.
Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists, Owen Tippitt amd Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and an assist and Carter Verhaeghe scored a goal against his former team to lead the Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 34 shots, and Keith Yandle and Sam Bennett each had two assists.
Point tied it at 4 with seven minutes to go on his power-play goal and then got the winner when he skated in on a breakaway and backhanded the puck past Bobrovsky.
With the Panthers trailing 3-2, Huberdeau skated in on a breakaway and slid the puck under Vasilevskiy’s pads at 1:27 into the third to tie the score at 3.
Tippett gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead on his goal at 4:09 of the third.
The Panthers thought they scored a power-play goal when Sam Bennett pushed the puck past Vasilevskiy at 7:26 of the first, but the goal was waved off due to goalie interference. The Lightning took a 1-0 lead on Coleman’s short-handed goal 16 seconds later.
The Panthers tied it at 1 on Barkov’s power-play goal at 9:41, and Verhaeghe put them ahead with 3:29 left in the first.
Kucherov tied the score 2-all on his first power-play goal at 4:48 of the second. His second gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead when he one-timed a pass from Hedman from the right circle with 5:09 left in the second. Kucherov missed the entire regular season with a hip injury after having surgery on Dec. 29. He played his first game since Sept. 28.
The first period was especially chippy, with a combined 16 penalty minutes. The second period ended with a fighting scrum in front of the Tampa Bay net.
BACK TO WORK
Steven Stamkos, who hadn’t played since April 8 with a lower-body injury, a span of 16 games, returned for Game 1. Hedman (lower body) and Ryan McDonagh (upper body) also returned after each missed the last two games of the regular season.
NOTES: Since his NHL debut in 2013-14, Kucherov has scored 38 postseason goals, tying him with Alex Ovechkin for most among all players. ... Coleman’s short-handed goal was the first in the playoffs for the Lightning since Alex Killorn in Game 1, Round 1 in the 2019 playoffs.
The Panthers increased capacity to 50% for the playoffs. 9,646 attended Sunday’s game.
The teams meet Tuesday for Game 2.