TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 3 by defeating the Florida Panthers five to one in the second round of the NHL Playoffs on Saturday at AMALIE Arena.
The Bolts extend their series lead three to one and another win will see them eliminate Florida to advance to the next round.
Team captain Steven Stamkos scored two goals to ensure Tampa Bay get a win in Game 3. Nikita Kucherov, Corey Perry and Erik Cernak also scored a goal each to get on the scoresheet.
The Lightning is in the hunt for a third straight Stanley Cup, and a win in Game 4 will put them closer to that goal.
Doing so would make the Bolts only the fourth team to reach that accomplishment, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-49), the Montreal Canadiens (1956-60, 1976-79) and the New York Islands (1982-1982).
Puck drop for Game 4 against Florida is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 23 at AMALIE Arena.
10 Tampa Bay will keep you up to date with the latest score during the game.
0:00: Lightning score two goals to win Game 3!
9:37: Steven Stamkos comes in hot with a goal! Lightning leading with 3-1 score.
17:06: Erik Cernak scores a goal on the Panthers. Score now 2-1.
3:53: Panthers' Sam Reinhart sinks a goal. Score tied 1-1.
6:39: Corey Perry scores the first goal in Game 3 for Tampa Bay Lightning. Score 1-0.
Fans gather to cheer on the Lightning not only inside the Amalie Arena — but even outside! A watch party in Ford Thunder Alley brought a crowd of fans ready to cheer on the Bolts!
Thunder Alley watch party
Lightning vs Panthers Game 3 watch party
Original story: Brandon Hagel was one of the five players limping to the locker room during Game 2's win against the Panthers.
"Whatever it takes," Hagel said. "That's what winners do."
It's a lesson he's learned quickly since getting traded to the Bolts midseason. He is one of the handful of guys on this team without a ring.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ice, the majority of Florida Panthers players have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, either. They are trying to learn from the two-time defending champions on the fly.
"I think it's a great eye-opener for our group to see what it really takes," Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette said. "It's something we're referencing and showing. Even their skill players, what they're doing -- they know how to win. We're learning and we want to learn and we want to get better."
The Tampa Bay Lightning team is hot.
They are also beaten up.
The four-game winning streak is written all over their bodies in the form of bumps and bruises.
"That's just the sacrifice at this time of the year," Steven Stamkos, who went to the locker room three times in Game 2, said. "That's just the expectation of our group. When everyone's doing it, no matter the situation in the game, it's contagious."
The Bolts blocked 24 pucks Thursday night in Sunrise. All but four players deflected a shot in the contest.
"Lots of guys getting stitched up. It was a hell of an effort," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said.
Despite taking a 2-0 series lead, this series has been tight. In Game 1, the Bolts pulled away after a pair of late power plays in the 3rd period. Then in Game 2, Ross Colton scores with 3.8 seconds left to catapult this team into a commanding series lead.
The Lightning are a perfect 9-0 when leading 2-0 in a series. None of those matchups went seven games, though the Panthers did take the squad to six in 2021.
"We bought into the system of it might not look pretty, maybe guys will get frustrated, but when you're blocking shots, playing good in the defensive zone, not giving them too much -- the offense comes," Colton, who leads the team in goals with five, said.
Brunette said, "You're playing with margins and right now they're winning the margin battle."
Colton's goal was the seventh latest in playoff history to go-ahead in the 3rd period. It's the second latest in franchise history next to Tyler Johnson's heroics in 2015.
The Panthers were dubbed the Comeback Cats for a reason this year. They tallied the most comeback wins in the league, but it is hard to imagine they will be able to rattle off four wins in five games when Andrei Vasilevskiy is looking like an impenetrable wall again.
He stopped 35 shots in Game 2 and saved more than 2 goals above average, according to Moneypuck.com.
Also, Florida is on a 0-for-25 skid on the power play during the postseason. The Lightning have made their best players fairly invisible to begin the series.
"Not overly concerned. Frustration level is affecting them a little bit," Brunette said. "A lot of it probably stems from the power play and it's kind of leaked into the five-on-five game."
So now the Bolts return home to AMALIE Arena for Game 3 at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The two days off are refreshing for the body, but the team knows this is not a time to get complacent.
"Enjoy (the Game 2 win) while we can, but we know they're going to come on the road -- come out flying," Ross Colton said.
Cooper added, "We're two games closer to where we want to be, but we're not there yet. I told you this in the last series and I'll tell you this again -- (this) was just one game. We're here to win a series."
The message is clear with the Eastern Conference Finals in sight for Steven Stamkos.
"Let's keep the foot on the gas."