Brayden Point scored on a breakaway with 1:14 remaining, his second of two goals in the period, and Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals in his return to the lineup as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers 5-4 in Game 1 of their First Round matchup on Sunday night at the BB&T Center.
Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the victory in net, making 35 saves for Tampa Bay.
This game was intense right from the start as there were 16 penalty minutes, including three coincidental minors, in a hotly contested first period.
Florida thought they had taken the lead on the power play, but the goal was disallowed when forward Sam Bennett pushed Vasilevskiy's pad and goal over the line.
The Panthers and their fans were none too happy with the call, and their displeasure increased further when Blake Coleman came right back down after the ensuing faceoff and backhanded a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 7:42 to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
The Tampa Bay lead didn't last long, however, as Florida captain Aleksander Barkov ripped a one-timer past Vasilevskiy on the power play just under two minutes later to tie it at one apiece.
The Panthers doubled their lead at the 16:41 mark as former Lightning winger Carter Verhaeghe fired a one-timer of his own after a pass from Barkov past the Tampa Bay netminder to put the Panthers up 2-1.
Even though Florida was riding high heading into the first intermission, the Lightning were able to tie it up on the power play when Kucherov scored his first at 4:58.
Nearly ten minutes later, the Bolts took the lead on Kucherov's second, another tally on the man advantage, to go up 3-2.
And just as the Lightning were able to answer after the first intermission, the Panthers answered after the second, even quicker than Tampa Bay did.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored just 77 seconds into the third to tie it up and then Owen Tippett scored at 4:09 after a beautiful play by Huberdeau to set him up to take a 4-3 lead.
Point made it 4-4 with a power play goal with exactly seven minutes left on the clock, before scoring the game-winner and sealing the deal for Tampa Bay.
Bobrovsky made 34 saves for Florida.
- Tampa Bay - SHG - Coleman - (Gourde, McDonagh) - 7:42
- Florida - PPG - Barkov - (Huberdeau, Yandle) - 9:41
- Florida - Verhaeghe - (Barkov, Yandle) - 16:31
- Tampa Bay - PPG - Kucherov - (Hedman, Stamkos) - 4:58
- Tampa Bay - PPG - Kucherov - (Hedman) - 14:51
- Florida - Huberdeau - (Bennett, Tippett) - 1:17
- Florida - Tippett - (Huberdeau, Bennett) - 4:09
- Tampa Bay - PPG - Point - (Kucherov, Hedman) - 13:00
- Tampa Bay - Point - (McDonagh) - 18:46
- Tampa Bay - Kucherov - (Roughing) - 3:15
- Florida - Weegar - (Roughing) - 3:15
- Tampa Bay - Killorn - (Slashing) - 7:18
- Tampa Bay - McDonagh - (Boarding) - 9:04
- Tampa Bay - Rutta - (Holding) - 14:09
- Florida - Barkov - (Roughing) - 14:09
- Tampa Bay - Coleman - (Slashing) - 16:31
- Florida - Vatrano - (Embellishment) - 16:31
- Florida - Bennett - (Holding) - 4:27
- Tampa Bay - Palat - (Interference) - 7:51
- Florida - Montour - (Slashing) - 9:33
- Florida - Nutivaara - (Tripping) - 12:56
- Tampa Bay - Coleman - (Roughing) - 18:30
- Florida - Lomberg - (Roughing) - 18:30
- Tampa Bay - Cirelli - (Roughing) - 5:39
- Florida - Marchment - (Roughing) - 5:39
- Florida - Bennett - (Charging) - 12:19
What's Next For The Bolts : The Lightning are back in action on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise for Game 2 of their First Round matchup with the Florida Panthers. Puck drop is slated for 8:00pm with the pregame starting at 7:00pm on NewsRadio WFLA.
PHOTO : Getty Images