Stamkas and Kucherov beat Lightning 5-1 in Game 3

TAMPA, FL – Andrew Vasilevsky is a not-so-secret key ingredient in the recipe for success in the Tampa Bay Lightning playoffs.

Incumbent Conn owner Smythe Trophy won his fifth postseason game in a row on Sunday, stopping 34 of 35 shots to help two-time Stanley Cup champions beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 and advance to the next round of the Eastern Conference finals.

“It all starts with him,” said striker Nick Paul after Vasilevsky again won the Panthers, who had the best record in the NHL, scoring an average of four goals per game in the regular season.

The winners of the Presidential Trophy have scored three goals in three games against Lightning, who are leading the 3-0 series and are within one win of reaching the conference finals for the sixth time in eight years.

“There’s a whole ton of things involved in that,” coach John Cooper said of Tampa Bay’s defensive efforts.

“But we are committed to Game D and I think in some of those moments we were helped by what we were leading. … But we have a plan, and the guys follow and play hard, ”Cooper added. “We feel we have a recipe and we just have to follow it. But it’s hard because they’re a damn team. “

Stephen Stamkas scored two goals, and Nikita Kucherov scored a goal and three assists for “Lightning”, which for the eighth time in nine seasons under the leadership of Cooper go to the playoffs.

Game 4 on Monday night at the Amalie Arena, where Tampa Bay won three of four games this postseason.

“We are happy with what is happening here. But you know, we haven’t done anything yet, ”Cooper said. “Until you start counting down this fourth victory, we can’t sit back and hang our hats. We are approaching, but it is far from over. “

Corey Perry started the “Little Ones” well with his 50th playoff goal of his career and also scored Eric Chernak.

Meanwhile, Vasilevsky conceded just one goal in his fourth game in a row, conceding at least three in each of Tampa Bay’s first six games this postseason.

On Sunday, the 6-foot-3 goalkeeper nicknamed “Big Cat” was again helped by teammates, who together blocked 19 shots.

“We’re losing 3-0, so obviously we’re not happy with the results,” Panthers star Jonathan Huberdo said.

“But we are playing, probably, with the best goalkeeper. He makes some savings. We have a chance. Now we are not getting rejections either, ”Guberdo added. “They are also honored that they are blocking every blow. They are a good team. You can understand why they won two Stanley Cups. ”

Sam Reinhart scored the only goal in Florida on Sunday, capturing the enigmatic 0-for-25 start of the playoffs in the Panthers power game.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 31 of 34 shots, and Perry and Chernak scored just moments after Florida scored penalties in the first and second periods. One-time pass from Kucharov Stamkas made it 3-1 in the middle of the second.

Kucherov and Stamkos added goals to the empty net in the last four minutes after the Panthers removed Bobrowski in favor of an additional striker.

“In every game we expect to win,” said Stamkas, looking at game 4. “But we understand what lies ahead.”

Perry, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent after being part of the teams that lost to Lightning in each of the last two Stanley Cup finals, redirected Ryan McDonagh’s shot past Bobrowski to bring the defending champions early.

The Panthers, 0-on-25 in power games in their first nine playoff games, finally made their way and tied 1-all. Guberdo and Alexander Barkov set up Reinhart to beat Vasilevsky from under the gate.

In the end, Florida paid for its inability to take advantage of other opportunities.

Barkov simply did not respond to Chernak’s goal, which put “Lightning” ahead with a score of 2: 1, sending a shot from the right circle from the bar. The Panthers also nearly pulled even during a game in force in the second period, which yielded several highlights, including Huberdo’s wide-open gaze, which McDonagh threw the stick up through the net.

Florida finished 1-on-3, dropping to 1-on-28 in situations with human superiority this postseason.

“Not so much luck with the puck, and great credit to them,” said Florida interim coach Andrew Brunet.

“We are lagging behind, they have a tough team to come back to. We seem to be behind this whole series and did not find the extra equipment behind, which we found all year, “- added Brunette. “But you have to play one game to bring him home and keep him alive.”

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