There were several storylines from Game Four, including the dramatic return of Mikhail Sergachev. But the biggest one was this: the Lightning staved off elimination with a 6-3 victory.

Certainly, Sergachev’s return to the lineup — his first game played since breaking his leg on February 7 — gave the Lightning a boost. Sergachev did his part on the ice too. He logged over 17 minutes of ice time and contributed an assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Other important elements led to the victory. The Lightning produced their best period so far in the series — in the opening frame, they decisively carried play and built a 3-0 lead. The Lightning’s power play tallied two goals and recorded seven shots on net. As is usually the case when the power play comes through, the Lightning’s top players were difference-makers. Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman combined to post 11 points. Brandon Hagel (who skated on the top power-play unit in Game Four) registered two goals and an assist as well.

As mentioned earlier, the Lightning dominated play in the first period. They gained momentum from a Stamkos power-play goal at 8:54 and didn’t relinquish it. Hagel snapped in a shorthanded goal at 12:09, and Point converted off the rush with a wrap-around tally at 15:07. 

The Panthers pushed back in the second period, and the Lightning weren’t able to maintain the high level they displayed in the first. A Lightning d-zone turnover occurred moments before Carter Verhaeghe’s goal from the low slot at 4:17. Although Hagel reestablished a three-goal lead for the Lightning at 9:40 when he fired in a slot shot during a four-on-four, the Panthers chipped in two more goals before the period ended. A failed clear during a short Lightning penalty kill allowed the Panthers to maintain possession in the offensive zone. Sam Reinhart followed his own shot and backhanded in the rebound from the front of the net at 11:10. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored off the rush at 14:33. After holding the Panthers to just five shots on net in the first, the Lightning allowed 15 second-period SOG.

The early minutes in the third were anxious ones for the Lightning. They continued to cede possession to the Panthers, and Reinhart hit the post with a left-circle shot off the rush. But as the period neared the halfway point, the Lightning settled down. They began clearing pucks cleanly and spending more time in the offensive zone. Then, just shy of the 10-minute mark, the Lightning scored a crucial insurance goal. Kucherov set up Stamkos for a left-circle wrist shot, and the Lightning captain fired the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove at 9:34. Back up by two goals, the Lightning carried play for most of the final 10 minutes. In the closing minutes, the Panthers took overlapping penalties. Those infractions gave the Lightning a long five-on-three. Nick Paul scored on his own rebound at 16:22, reestablishing a three-goal lead and effectively ending Game Four.

It was an impressive performance from a team facing elimination. The Lightning came out of the gates well, withstood an opposition counterattack, and pulled away in the third. With the victory, they have extended the series. Game Five will be on Monday in Sunrise.

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

  • Steven Stamkos — Lightning. Two goals.
  • Brandon Hagel — Lightning. Two goals and assist.
  • Victor Hedman — Lightning. Three assists.