The final score was an ugly one, but Game Five was a close contest until the Panthers pulled away late in the third. In other words, it resembled the other three games that the Panthers won. Tight games that could have gone either way. But as they did in their other three victories, the Panthers were the ones to make key plays at crucial times. And similar to those other three contests, the Panthers had a one-goal third-period lead and effectively locked things down defensively.

Certainly, the Lightning had some frustrating calls go against them. They thought they had scored the game’s first goal, but Anthony Cirelli’s rebound tally was erased due to Florida’s successful goalie interference challenge. In the second period, the Lightning appeared to have tied the game at two. Mikhail Sergachev’s goal, however, was disallowed on the ice when the officials ruled that Cirelli interfered with Sergei Bobrovsky. The Lightning then unsuccessfully challenged the call.

Opinions seem to be split about whether the correct calls were made. But there is no debate about the fact that one or both of the rulings could have gone the other way. They were 50-50 calls that ended up landing on the Florida side of the ledger.

The two goalie interference calls meant that the Lightning were down, 2-1, heading into the third. Not tied or ahead in the game. And the Panthers made that advantage stand with another outstanding shutdown third-period performance.

There were other factors besides those calls that hurt the Lightning. They went 0-3 on the power play, generating very little over the course of those six minutes. Two of the PP chances came in the first half of the first period when the game was still scoreless. On the third chance, they allowed a shorthanded goal.

That shorty came after a d-zone faceoff loss and a coverage miscue. The first Florida goal, which came in the opening minute of the second period, occurred when the Lightning failed to converge on Carter Verhaeghe. Verhaeghe followed his own initial shot with an open rebound chance from the slot. In the third period, a d-zone turnover opened the door for the Panthers to make a play — and they did. Aleksander Barkov’s insurance goal gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

Congratulations to the Panthers, who played high-level defense throughout much of the series. The Lightning competed hard throughout the five games but were on the wrong end of too many big plays.

Thanks to all of you who followed us on Lightning Radio this season. We appreciate the support!

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

  • Aleksander Barkov — Panthers. Two goals and assist.
  • Carter Verhaeghe — Panthers. Two goals and assist.
  • Max Crozier — Lightning.