Stanley Cup Playoffs: Panthers vs Lightning Game 3 preview

By: Quinn Allen
25 Apr 24
NHL
News - NHL
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Panthers vs Lightning Game 3 preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning have their backs up against the wall heading into Game 3 on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, having lost the first two contests of this first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series. The puck is scheduled to drop at Amalie Arena at 7 PM ET. Both games have been extremely close so far, ending in 3-2 scorelines. Florida won Game 2 in overtime thanks to Carter Verhaeghe, who beat Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tampa is searching for answers and essentially needs to win this matchup in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Highlights

  • The Panthers and Lightning meet in Game 3 on Thursday
  • Tampa is actually a slim home favorite
  • Continue reading for the game preview

Head-to-head info

The Lightning, who were back-to-back Stanley Cup champions a few years ago, previously beat the Panthers in both of their playoff series. Florida was a different team at that point however. As you can see by how close Games 1 and 2 were, Tampa is very much in this series. The results just aren’t going their way.

Panthers

The Atlantic Division winners made a Cinderella run to the Cup last season and proceeded to prove it was no fluke in 2023-24. Paul Maurice’s squad finished with a 52-24-6 record for a total of 110 points and sits as one of the clear contenders to win Lord Stanley. The Panthers have been getting production from their usual suspects in this Lightning series. Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe, and Matthew Tkachuk all scored in the opener, while Vladimir Tarasenko, Sam Bennett, and Verhaeghe again found the back of the net in Game 2.

However, Bennett, who is a key player for Florida, suffered an injury on Tuesday evening that is expected to keep him out for the time being. It’s a next-man-up mentality for the Panthers, but they will miss him. The hero for this squad in Game 2 was netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who made two mind-boggling saves in the second period that kept him team in it. The goalie ultimately had 21 saves in the contest. The Panthers outshot the Bolts 37-23 and went 1 for 4 on the power play.

Florida is in a prime position right now with a 2-0 series lead. They were always expected to advance, but I’m not sure if anyone thought the Panthers would sweep. That’s still a realistic possibility. If the main guys keep playing at such a high level, it will be four in a row. Florida has now won six straight dating back to the regular season, but they’re not a favorite in Game 3 at Bodog sportsbook.

Lightning

Tampa Bay won’t be too happy with how things have unfolded to this point. As previously mentioned, the Bolts were in both games but couldn’t get it done in the end. Game 2 saw Tampa go down 2-0 in the first period before storming back with two goals of their own thanks to Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. While they couldn’t find a winner, Vasilevskiy was extremely solid in net, making 34 saves on 37 shots. 

Stamkos has been the leading man offensively ahead of free agency this summer, already scoring twice and tallying an assist. Nikita Kucherov, the NHL points leader, has been limited by the Panthers’ strong blue line, failing to score while assisting two goals through the first two contests. The Bolts have now lost six overtime playoff games in a row and to make matters worse, they’ve also dropped five consecutive playoff games at Amalie Arena. Not exactly a good sign.

Head coach Jon Cooper gave his team some time away from the ice on Wednesday to regroup before Thursday. History may be against them heading into Game 3, but Tampa has slightly better odds than the Panthers at most NHL sportsbooks.

Quinn Allen is a seasoned sports journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Quinn is a full-time senior editor for ClutchPoints where he specializes in baseball, soccer, basketball, and football. Quinn has been working in the industry for five years and brings a unique outlook to sports journalism, having played high-level soccer and baseball growing up. Quinn resides in Kelowna, Canada, and enjoys playing soccer and going to the gym.