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Apr 27, 2024 8:08 pm

Lightning double up on Panthers to avoid elimination

Steven Stamkos

Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Brandon Hagel each tallied twice, and the Lightning stayed alive in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with a 6-3 win over the visiting Florida Panthers in Game 4 on Saturday.

The win cut the No. 1 wild-card club’s deficit in the Sunshine State rivalry to 3-1. Game 5 is Monday night in Sunrise.

Brayden Point netted one goal and had two assists, Nick Paul scored and Victor Hedman managed three assists. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots as the Lightning broke a six-game postseason home losing streak.

NHL top points scorer Nikita Kucherov had three assists for 166 career playoff points, the third-most among active players.

Returning from a broken leg, Tampa Bay defenseman Mikhail Sergachev recorded an assist in his first game since Feb. 7.

For Florida, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart and Oliver Ekman-Larsson found the net, while Matthew Tkachuk posted two assists. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves.

The Panthers lost for just the second time in the past nine matches (7-2-0) against the Lightning.

On their first power play, the Lightning scored first for the first time in the series when strong pressure resulted in Stamkos popping in a goal at 8:54 of the first period.

That marker gave Stamkos 100 career playoff points, making the captain the third Lightning player to reach the milestone.

On the Panthers’ first power play, Hagel made it 2-0 by potting the series’ first short-handed tally. He blocked a shot in his defensive end and fired one in at the near post at 12:09.

Point added on in the explosive first period when he raced by Bobrovsky, around the cage and whipped in his second tally of the series at 15:07 for a three-goal advantage.

In the second, the Atlantic Division champions turned it up a notch with relentless puck possession, resulting in Tkachuk finding Verhaeghe at 4:17 for his third goal of the postseason.

During 4-on-4 play, Florida got in too deep on a rush, and Hagel scored his third at 9:40.

However, Reinhart’s putback 90 seconds later, his third of the series, made it 4-2. It was the winger’s 60th goal overall this season.

After 3:23 expired, Ekman-Larsson cut it to 4-3 with his third career playoff goal to cap a wild four-goal frame.

Stamkos’ second marker, a rocket at 9:34 of the third, was his fifth. Paul’s power-play marker, his second, sent the series back to South Florida.

–Field Level Media

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