RECAP: Panthers 3, Lightning 2

On the play, Verhaeghe said he knew No. 16 would thread the needle.

“We had a nice entry there, I gave the puck to Barky and went to the net,” said Verhaeghe, who’s scored a franchise-record 16 career playoff goals. “I didn’t even see the pass. I just stuck out my stick. That’s how well Barky can pass the puck. Just put it on Barky’s stick.”

Helping keep the lead intact, Bobrovsky went into brick-wall mode.

After the two-time Vezina Trophy winner went left to right to rob Steven Stamkos on a shot from the left circle, the Panthers went the other way with the puck and Tkachuk cashed in on a long empty-netter to extend the lead to 3-1 at 17:55 and essentially lock up the win.

Soon after, Bobrovsky robbed Brayden Point on a shot from the slot.

From that moment on, the sellout crowd of 19,356 stood up and never sat back down.

“It was outstanding,” Bobrovsky said. “A great playoff game, great playoff fans.”

Not giving up, the Lightning did manage to cut their deficit to one goal when they pulled Vasilevskiy on a power play to a gain a 6-on-4 advantage. But by the time Stamkos lit the lamp to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9.3 seconds left, it was too little too late for Tampa Bay.

In the Battle of Florida, the Panthers have drawn first blood.

“Every game is a big game,” Bobrovsky said. “Every shift is a big shift. It’s great to start with the win.”

THEY SAID IT

“The two guys that had the real challenge tonight were in the net. There were stretches of grind. Everyone knows the shooters are dangerous. Our first [goal] was a deflection. They’re just so hard to get in on.” – Paul Maurice

“Everybody got a hit it says there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Somebody had 10. A lot of hits.” – Matthew Tkachuk

“Any time you start the series off in Game 1, everyone is trying to be physical and set the tone for the series. I think we came out hot. We got lots of hits, and they hit us back. It was just a good physical game.” – Carter Verhaeghe

CATS STATS

– Aleksander Barkov recorded the 10th multi-point playoff game of his career.

– The Panthers led 33-22 in scoring chances, per NaturalStatTrick.com.

– Sergei Bobrovsky made five high-danger saves.

– The Panthers allowed zero scoring chances over the 4:09 their fourth line was deployed.

– Anton Lundell went 8-for-13 (61.5%) in the faceoff circle.

– Eetu Luostarinen posted a team-high six hits.

– Aaron Ekblad blocked a team-high four shots on goal.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Panthers and Lightning will reconvene for Game 2 on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Want to rock Amerant Bank Arena? Click here for tickets.

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