The NHL playoffs are off to an absolutely wild start, and Game 1 of Panthers – Lightning was no exception. This was a barnburner from the beginning. The first period featured 3 goals – two from the Panthers, and one from the Lightning. Blake Coleman got the scoring started for the Lightning at 7:42 of the first, but Florida answered back with two of their own – the first from Alexsander Barkov and the second from Carter Verhaeghe.
Tampa answered back with the only two goals of the second period – both by Nikita Kucherov. Showing little rust, the Tampa power play was clicking on all cylinders with Kucherov’s goals both being assisted by Victor Hedman, and the first by Steven Stamkos.
Down 3-2 going into the 3rd, the Panthers would not give up. Jonathan Huberdeau got the scoring started, and Owen Tippett added another to give the Panthers a 4-3 lead. In the end though, Tampa Bay was simply too much with Brayden Point scoring twice, including one with less than a minute and a half left to give the Lightning a 5-4 victory.
Kucherov ended the night with 3 points – and as many, myself included, predicted – he would be the difference maker.
Game 2 is Tuesday at 8pm.