Lightning sweep Panthers, back in conference final

TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper knew early that goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was going to have a special night Monday against the Panthers with a second-round playoff series sweep at stake.

And the way Vasilevskiy has been playing of late, it almost seemed destined to be his night as the Lightning looked to close out a Panthers team that was the league’s best in the regular season.

“(Monday), he wasn’t letting anything in,” Cooper said.

The Lightning know all too well that Presidents’ Trophies are fleeting accomplishments. It’s Stanley Cups that make legacies, and you get those by playing stellar defense and getting exemplary goaltending.

Game 4 might have been Vasilevskiy’s best playoff performance yet. He stopped all 49 shots on goal he faced and the Lightning got a huge third-period goal from Pat Maroon after two previous goals had been disallowed for a 2-0 win that sent them to the league’s final four for the third straight season.

“We didn’t want to waste that game that (Vasilevskiy) played,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “We knew (the Panthers) were going to push, and they did, and they played outstanding. They threw a lot of pucks on net, and there he was, ‘Vasy,’ like he always is in those big games.”

The Lightning, in their sixth final four in the past eight seasons, are halfway to becoming the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups since the Islanders dynasty of the…

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