Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev leaves game after hit into boards

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TAMPA — A questionable hit late in Game 4 drew ire from the more than 9,700 Lightning fans Saturday at Amalie Arena.

Already down star wing Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay lost another one of its valuable players in Mikhail Sergachev with fewer than four minutes remaining.

The defenseman skated behind the Lightning net and tried to get rid of the puck in the corner. As the puck left his stick, Florida’s Patric Hornqvist collided into Sergachev, sending him into the boards.

Sergachev was slow to get up. He lay on the ice for a few minutes, getting looked at by team trainers before skating under his own power off the ice and down the tunnel to the locker room.

The hit didn’t warrant a penalty for Hornqvist before he and Lightning forward Pat Maroon jarred at the bench, leading to matching 10-minute misconducts.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not have an update on Sergachev after the game.

“We’re up 5-2 and make it 6-2 pretty early in the third, you know there’s going to be emotion for the rest of that period,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s just about playing between the whistles and trying as best as you can to keep your emotions in check.”

Hedman said he thought the team did a good job controlling their emotions for most of the night. He couldn’t answer whether the Panthers might have had ulterior motives down four goals in the third period, though.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “I think you have to ask them.”

The captain’s return couldn’t have a better start to it

Two big questions loomed over the Lightning before the start of their series against the Panthers.

Would Kucherov be ready to go after missing the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery? And — not to be overshadowed — would Steven Stamkos be on the ice for Game 1?

The focus was mostly on Kucherov. He piqued interest throughout the league and he has nine points in four games (three goals, six assists), including a four-point outing on Saturday.

After Stamkos was confirmed “ready to go,” it was business as usual. Yet, the captain’s contributions can’t be overlooked.

In four games, Stamkos has six points (two goals, four assists), with at least one point in every game.

Saturday, Stamkos picked up assists on Alex Killorn’s second goal and Kucherov’s third-period, power-play goal.

“He’s been great,” Killorn said before the game on the Bally Sports Sun broadcast. “He’s been working so hard to be ready for the playoffs. For me, especially, to have a guy like that on my line, that can score from really anywhere in the offensive zone, it’s nice to have and it just adds another threat to your line.”

Loose pucks

• Ondrej Palat’s first-period goal was his 34th career postseason goal, surpassing Martin St. Louis (3) for the second-most in franchise history behind ... you guessed it ... Nikita Kucherov (38).

• Kucherov’s three-assist outing was his sixth career postseason game with three or more.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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