Tampa Bay Lightning heart Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his aim in opposition to the Florida Panthers in the course of the second interval in Recreation 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff sequence Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Courtesy: (AP Photograph/Chris O’Meara)
Wednesday night time, the Tampa Bay Lightning set out on their quest for a second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a 4-0 win in opposition to the Florida Panthers on the Amalie Enviornment, closing out the sequence 4-2 in Recreation 6.
Simply two years after Tampa Bay ’s historic first-round collapse in opposition to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the returning Stanley Cup Champions have been matched with a troublesome opponent within the Panthers, a workforce that had their quantity all season lengthy earlier than assembly within the first spherical.
Labeled the “Battle of Florida,” the 2 scrappy groups have been division rivals for all the 2020-2021 season and managed to clinch the 2nd and third general seeds locking them in a battle for the books.
Followers had been ready for such a sequence ever because the groups took the ice again within the mid-90s however by no means met within the postseason as a consequence of rankings and divisional battle matchups.
But when this sequence taught followers something: it’s that the common season doesn’t matter in the event you can’t make it occur within the postseason when it counts.
“Earlier than the playoffs, we have been one of many contenders,” Panthers centre and captain Aleksander Barkov stated. “We performed actually good hockey in the course of the common season. We confirmed everybody what we have been able to. We performed actually good hockey within the playoffs. I do know we didn’t win video games, however we performed fairly good 5-on-5 hockey. We had quite a lot of probabilities. We simply couldn’t win video games. That’s the purpose of hockey; you’ve received to win video games. We solely received two, however you’ve received to win 4.”
That assertion couldn’t be any extra true. Whereas any fan within the league can be remiss if they didn’t admire the tenacity the Panthers confirmed all season lengthy.
The six-game sequence was one for the document books as each groups put up over 100 photographs within the sequence, and Tampa even netting a franchise document 24 targets within the sequence—19 of which got here within the first 4 video games.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos stated it was the workforce’s “finest effort by far” within the postseason after the win.
“Our workforce performed extraordinarily nicely tonight,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos stated. “We now have the perfect goalie on the planet. He shut the door. The penalty kill was nice. The ability play received one. It was only a 60-minute effort. That’s what it takes to shut out sequence, particularly in opposition to good groups. It was nice to be a part of that effort tonight.”
As acknowledged earlier, the Panthers had the Lightning’s quantity all season lengthy, however a slew of rocky postseason begins from the 2 veteran goaltenders on the squad severely squandered their probabilities late within the sequence.
In Recreation 6, the Florida Panthers turned but once more to the 20-year-old, former first-round choice within the 2019 NHL Draft, Spencer Knight, to proper the workforce’s course. But it surely wouldn’t be sufficient, even with an outstanding 36-save night time.
The longer term is vibrant for the Cats, however they didn’t steal the Lightning’s thunder en path to their second consecutive Cup win.