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Stamkos, Kucherov lead Lightning past Panthers 5-1 in Game 3

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TAMPA, FL (AP) – Steven Stamkos scores two goals, Nikita Kucherov scores a goal and provides three assists as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 and are on the verge of another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.

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Corey Perry and Eric Cernak also scored, while reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves to help the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions take a 3-0 lead over the Panthers, who had the NHL’s best record in the regular season. season.

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Game 4 will take place Monday night at Amalia Arena, where the Lightning have won three of four games this postseason. Another win will send them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in eight years.

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Vasilevsky has conceded just one goal in his fourth consecutive game after conceding at least three in each of Tampa Bay’s first six games this postseason. He was helped in this dominant stretch as his teammates in front of him helped by playing a great team defense.

Sam Reinhart scored Florida’s only goal in Game 3, giving the Panthers a mysterious 0-for-25 power playoff start.

Sergei Bobrovsky saved 31 of 34 shots, with Perry and Cernak scoring just moments after Florida converted penalties in the first and second periods. Stamkos’ moment after Kucherov’s serve made the score 3:1 in the middle of the second.

Kucherov and Stamkos scored into empty nets in the last four minutes after Bobrovsky was sent off by the Panthers in favor of an extra striker.

Perry, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent after being part of teams that lost to the Lightning in each of the last two Stanley Cup Finals, redirected a Ryan McDonagh shot past Bobrovsky to give the defending champions the lead.

The Panthers, 0-of-25 on the powerplay in their first nine playoff games, finally broke ahead to tie at 1: Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov set up Reinhart to beat Vasilevsky from behind the net.

Ultimately, however, Florida paid the price for its inability to capitalize on other opportunities.

Barkov nearly responded to Chernak’s goal, which gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead with a right-handed shot wide of the post. The Panthers also narrowly missed even during the powerplay in the second period, which produced several chances, including a wide open look from Huberdeau that McDonagh deflected over the net with his stick.

Florida finished 1-for-3, dropping to 1-for-28 in player advantage situations this postseason.

NOTES. With his 50th career playoff goal, Perry moved ahead of Brad Marchand and Patrick Bergeron for a single-handed sixth-best career playoff lead. … The Lightning are 9-0 in a best-of-seven series in which they won the first two games, including last year’s first-round victory over the Panthers. … Lightning C Brayden Point missed his third consecutive game with a lower body injury sustained during Tampa Bay’s Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round.


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