Lightning complete 2nd-round sweep of Panthers

Posted: 23/05/2022 in NHL
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The Tampa Bay Lightning completed their second-round sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers with a 2-0 Game 4 victory Monday night.

Veteran forward Pat Maroon scored the game-winner in the third period while Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched a stunning 49-save shutout. Ondrej Palat sealed the deal with an empty-netter.

“We didn’t want to waste that game that (Vasilevskiy) played,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters postgame, according to team beat writer Chris Krenn.

The Bolts thought they opened the scoring twice in the second period, but both goals were called back after review.

The victory marked the Lightning’s first sweep under head coach Jon Cooper and 10th straight series win. Only the Montreal Canadiens (13 from 1976 to 1980) and New York Islanders (19 from 1980 to 1984) won more consecutive series.

Tampa Bay pulled off the sweep despite missing star forward Brayden Point, who was injured in Game 7 of its first-round clash against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I think we’re closer than ever, but we got swept. There’s another level we’ve got to climb. We’re still climbing,” Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said, per team reporter Jameson Olive. “I believed that we were ready for that next step, but unfortunately we fell short.”

The Panthers controlled 51.8% of the expected goals and 57.9% at five-on-five throughout the series, according to Natural Stat Trick. However, the outstanding Vasilevskiy allowed only three goals on 154 shots, while the Lightning scored 13.

Vasilevskiy secured his sixth career series-clinching shutout, surpassing Clint Benedict and Chris Osgood (both 5) for the most in league history.

“I think it was our best game this series, but it wasn’t enough,” Florida captain Aleksander Barkov said.

Cooper made sure to give the Panthers some props.

“People are going to sit here and say, ‘What happened to Florida?’ No – a bounce here, a bounce there and it’s 2-2 and we’re going back to Florida at some point,” he said, according to Krenn. “Guys are exhausted – and it was only a four-game series.”

Since the 2004-05 lockout, only five Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams advanced past the second round, while only two won the Stanley Cup, per Sportsnet. The past four Presidents’ Trophy winners all lost four straight games leading up to their elimination.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow. Getting swept is tough,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said, according to Olive. “It hurts. It stings. There’s no doubt about it.”

The back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions will face either the New York Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

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