TAMPA, Fla. – On the brink of falling into a deep hole against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Florida Panthers refused to concede.
Ryan Lomberg scored on a breakaway 5:56 into overtime Thursday night, capping a furious comeback that gave the Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the first-round Central Division playoff matchup.
The Panthers cut the Lightning's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series by scoring twice in the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit, then killing off a penalty at the start of overtime and winning it. Game 4 is Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Radko Gudas gained possession off a faceoff deep in his own zone and flicked the puck ahead to Lomberg, who barreled in on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“I don’t remember too much,” Lomberg said. "Honestly, I kind of knew what I was going to do ahead of time and obviously it worked out pretty well.”
The Lightning took a 5-3 lead into the final period. But the defending champions couldn't put away the Panthers, yielding a power-play goal to Patric Hornqvist early in the third and Gustav Forsling's equalizer with 3:07 remaining.
“They pushed hard. ... We kind of sat back a little bit too much I thought” in the third period," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who had three assists. “We were kind of protecting the lead and not playing to our strengths.”
Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the second period snapped a 3-3 tie less than two minutes after Alex Wennberg scored on the power play for the Panthers, who led 2-0 after Sam Bennett and Gudas solved Vasilevskiy in the first 7:05 of the opening period.
Once the Lightning got started, it didn’t take long to erase their early deficit.
Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton and Steven Stamkos scored in the first nine minutes of the second period. Alex Killorn added a power-play goal four minutes after Point put Tampa Bay ahead 4-3 off a feed from Nikita Kucherov.
Five goals in a single period were a franchise playoff record for the Lightning.
“Obviously not the second period we were looking for, but we know how good of a team we are. We know what we’re capable of,” Lombard said. "There wasn’t any quit for a split second there. Proud of the guys.”
Two nights after stopping 32 of 33 shots to win Game 2 on the road, Vasilevskiy finished with 41 saves in Tampa Bay’s first home playoff game in more than two years after winnin the Stanley Cup in the playoff bubble in Canada last year. The Lightning had been 28-0-0 when leading after two periods this season, including the playoffs.
Goalie Chris Driedger made his second career postseason start for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky, a 5-4 loser in Game 1, replaced him at the start of the third period and stopped all nine shots he faced for the victory.
“I’m really proud of the guys. We were down 5-3 after that second period and we get the W,” Bobrovsky said. "It’s a big win for us, but it’s only one game. We enjoy it tonight and get ready for the next one.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper expects his team to bounce back in Game 4.
“I don't think anybody expected this to be a sweep,” Cooper said. “I think people expect this to be a really good series, and it has been.”
Bennett was back in the lineup for Florida after serving a one-game suspension for a boarding penalty in the series opener. His goal less than five minutes into the opening period gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Gudas made it a two-goal lead at 7:05 of the first. Jonathan Huberdeau assisted on both goals and also had an assist on Hornqvist's goal that trimmed Florida's deficit to 5-4.
NICE TO BE HOME
The Lightning played a playoff game at home for the first time since April 12, 2019, vs. Columbus. After initially announcing attendance for postseason games at Amalie Arena would be capped at 7,000, the team increased it to 9,000.
The Panthers improved to 3-8 in playoff overtime games, 2-4 on the road. The Lightning are 22-11 overall, 8-7 at home.
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