By Leo Haggerty


In an extremely physical and competitive opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the Florida Panthers 4-2.  The Bolts now advance to the second round to take on the Carolina Hurricanes with the winner to represent the Central Division in the semifinals.

Below is a recap of the last two games of the All-Sunshine State series.  Enjoy.

The Panthers staved off elimination with a 4-1 triumph over the Lightning at BB&T Arena in Sunrise.  That cut the Bolts series lead to 3-2.

Tampa Bay scored the only marker of the opening period just 53 seconds into the contest.  F Ross Colton (2) managed to get the Bolts first shot of the evening past Cats rookie G Spencer Knight (36 saves on 37 shots) but that was the only puck that would elude the Florida net minder, who was making his initial career playoff start, for the rest of the game.

The Panthers took the lead for good with two scores in the middle period.  D MacKenzie Weegar (1) tied the contest at 6:19 and F Mason Marchment (2) gave Florida the lead for good at 16:55.

The Cats puts a crooked number up on the scoreboard in the third period.  F Patric Hornqvist (2) slid the puck past Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy (34 saves on 37 shots) just 35 seconds into the final period with Florida on the power play to stretch the Florida lead to 3-1.

The Panthers made the final score 4-1 with only 15 seconds left in regulation.  F Frank Vatrano (1) made good on an empty net opportunity to send the series to Tampa for Game 6.

The Bolts left little doubt that Game 6 would not be a repetition of the previous contest and shut out the Panthers 4-0 at Amalie Arena.  The victory clinched the series for Tampa Bay 4 games to 2.

The Lightning scored the only goal that they would need at 6:16 of the first period.  F Pat Maroon (1) slid the puck past G Knight (20 saves on 23 shots) to put the Bolts up 1-0.

Tampa Bay increased their margin at 13:27.  F Steven Stamkos (3) netted a power play marker to put the Lightning up 2-zip.

The Bolts finished off the scoring with two scores in the final period.  F Brayden Point (4) made it 3-nothng at 14:36 and F Alex Killorn (4) deposited the biscuit into an empty net at 18:18 to make the final arithmetic 4-nil for the Lightning.

The story of the evening was Vasilevskiy,  #88 stopped all 29 Florida shot he faced and left little doubt how the outcome of this game was going to transpire.

Now, it’s off to Carolina for Game 1 Sunday afternoon.  Meet you around the TV to see how this one plays out.