The Florida Panthers surrendered three third period goals to drop Game 1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 4-1 count at a rather tepid FLA Live Arena.
After the usual slow start we’ve grown accustomed to, the Cats woke up in the second half of the first period and took the lead when Jonathan Huberdeau pulled up on the right side and sent a lovely cross over to Anthony Duclair, who put the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his first career postseason goal with 4:59 left in the frame. Brandon Montour drew the secondary assist on the play.
The Cats power play failed them both early and midway through the second period, and they could not solve Vasilevskiy a second time at 5-on 5 to add to their tenuous lead.
That failure would cost them at 16:22 when Nikita Kucherov made Aaron Ekblad look completely foolish before setting up a wide-open Corey Perry for an all-too-easy finish with MacKenzie Weegar off for hooking.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare bagged the eventual game-winner 3:35 into third off a scramble after an offensive zone faceoff. No one really won the draw, but Eetu Luostarinen couldn’t get a handle on it after Pat Maroon touched the puck, allowing Perry to take shot at Sergei Bobrovsky. While Bobrovsky made a good first stop, unfortunately the rebound came back out to Bellemare in the slot, who fired it over his arm with the keeper still in a…