Panthers fall to Lightning in Game 2, squander home-ice advantage in series

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The gamble didn’t work.

The birthday boy couldn’t celebrate.

Home ice was squandered.

All of that and more was true Tuesday night as the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 at the BB&T Center.

The Lightning, which got goals from Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde and 32 saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 first-round playoff series. Game 3 is on Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

One of the biggest moments of the game happened before the puck was dropped as Panthers coach Joel Quenneville benched starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in favor of Chris Driedger, who turned 27 on Tuesday and got his first playoff start.

Driedger made 25 saves, but the Panthers — who lost 5-4 on Sunday — managed just one goal this time, by Mason Marchment. It was Marchment’s first career playoff goal.

Tampa Bay opened the scoring just 4:52 into the first period. Stamkos, given way too much time and space by the Panthers, waited and waited before he slipped a short cross-ice pass. Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman tried to break up the play, but the puck went in off his skates.

Florida’s offense went dry early, going eight minutes between shots on goal in the first period.

The Lightning then made it 2-0 with 14:57 gone in the first. Brayden Point’s speed made the play as he skated past Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who was beaten badly. Point’s shot caromed off the far post, but Palat cleaned up the long rebound that skipped past Florida’s Gustav Forsling.

Florida, which got outshot 16-9 in the first period, came alive in the second. With 5:39 left in the period, Carter Verhaeghe’s pass from behind Tampa Bay’s net found Marchment, who redirected the puck over Vasilevskiy’s blocker.

The Panthers outshot Tampa Bay 11-4 in the second, but they couldn’t get the equalizer.

Quenneville pulled Driedger for an extra attacker with 2:17 left in the third period, and Gourde made the Panthers pay, scoring an empty-net goal with 85 seconds left, icing the game.


Panthers forward Sam Bennett, who had two assists in the series opener, served his one-game league suspension on Tuesday. Bennett was suspended for boarding Blake Coleman. Lightning coach Jon Cooper called it a “predatory” hit and said it was “tough to watch.”

The Panthers replaced Bennett with an extra defenseman, using Stralman, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday.

Panthers winger Owen Tippett on Sunday became the first Panthers rookie to score a playoff goal since David Nemirovsky in 1997.