With their backs against the wall, the Florida Panthers saw their season once again come to an end thanks to their rivals from across the state.
A third period goal from the Tampa Bay Lightning and 49 saves from their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy were enough for the 2-0 in Game 4 of their second round series, giving the Lightning a 4-0 series victory over the Panthers.
“They’re really good. I mean, they’re Stanley Cup champions for a reason, and their evolution of how they were once a high-flying kind of offensive team and they found their recipe how to win and they stick with it,” Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
After a scoreless first period where the Panthers outshot the Lightning 18-3, Tampa Bay appeared to get on the board first when Alex Killorn scored with 11:16 left in the second period. Florida challenged the goal and it was reversed, keeping the game scoreless once again.
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Minutes later, another apparent goal by the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov was taken off the board due to a hand pass penalty being called. The teams went into the second intermission scoreless for the first time in the series.
Tampa Bay would finally get the first goal of the game that counted when Pat Maroon put one past Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with 13:44 left in the third period. It came after Bobrovsky had stopped the first 19 shot attempts by the Lightning. Tampa Bay would add an empty net goal with 22 second left to seal the outcome.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow. Getting swept is tough,” Florida's Aaron Ekblad said. “It hurts. It stings. There’s no doubt about it.”
Bobrovsky finished the game with 23 saves for a Florida team that set the regular season record for goals scored, but had just three goals in this series.
“Obviously, we aspire to be them, and this was another learning experience for us,” Brunette added. “We need to be better.”
The Panthers, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL and won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history, become the ninth straight team to win the honor and fail to make the Stanley Cup Final.