Ross Colton scored with 3.8 seconds remaining, giving the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Thursday night.
The stunning finish put the Lightning up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series that heads to Tampa for Game 3 on Sunday.
The game appeared headed for overtime before Colton scored from right in front of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky off a backhand pass from Nikita Kucherov, who chased down a loose puck behind the Florida net.
Tampa Bay’s power play once again was the catalyst, producing Corey Perry’s first-period goal after delivering three goals in the Lightning’s 4-1 victory in Game 1.
Perry’s goal was the Lightning’s fourth in seven power-play chances to start the series.
Florida’s power play, meanwhile, continued to sputter.
The Panthers scored the third-most power-play goals during the regular season, but entered the second game of the series 0 for 21 in man-advantage situations through seven post-season games. They were 0 for 4 Thursday night, with the team’s lone goal coming on a 30-foot shot from Eetu Luostarinen that trickled past Andrei Vasilevskiy with 1:53 remaining in the second period.
Florida got its third power-play opportunity in the final minute of the second period and had a couple of good looks, but still went into the break tied. The Panthers also got another chance in the closing minutes of the third, but came up empty again.
Vasilevskiy stopped 34 of 35 shots for Tampa Bay. Bobrovsky finished with 25 saves, including a couple of big ones that kept the Lightning from breaking a 1-all tie earlier in the third period.
Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette is a finalist for NHL coach of the year, as is former Panthers coach Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers and Calgary coach Darryl Sutter – the brother of former Panthers coach Duane Sutter. The finalists were announced Thursday. ... Tampa’s Amalie Arena is playing host to a concert Saturday, so the teams get an extra day off before starting a back to back with Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday. ... Thursday marked only the second day that the Panthers had a home playoff game on the same day that the Miami Heat – their South Florida neighbours who play about 45 minutes south – had one of their own. The first such day was Tuesday.