For the first time since the 2018 playoffs, the Lightning got to celebrate a series-clinching win on home ice with their fans.
After building an early lead, Tampa Bay put on a defensive clinic in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy to eliminate the Panthers with a 4-0 shutout win in Game 6.
For the second-straight game, Tampa Bay led 1-0 through 20 minutes, with the goal coming on their first shot of the night.
At 6:16 of the first period, Tyler Johnson circled the net and threw a puck toward the front looking for Pat Maroon. The pass was initially popped up into the air by MacKenzie Weegar but Maroon stuck with the play, swatting it out of midair and past Spencer Knight to put the Bolts in front.
Unlike Game 5 when Tampa Bay grabbed the lead but failed to add on, the Bolts doubled their advantage on a second period power play chance. Tampa Bay worked the puck around to Steven Stamkos, who let loose one of his trademarked one-timers from the left circle that got by Knight.
In the third, Brayden Point cemented the win with a goal at the 14:46 mark that pushed the lead to three. Point cut around Weegar in the slot to come in alone and then avoided Knight's poke check attempt before slipping the puck past his outstretched pad.
Alex Killorn added an empty net goal with just over a minute remaining to round out the scoring.
Vasilevskiy put together his best performance of the playoffs to date in Game 6, stopping all 29 shots Florida threw his way. It was also a strong defensive performance in front of Vasilevskiy, especially in the third when they kept the Panthers' scoring chances to a minimum as Florida threw everything they had toward the Lightning net.
Adding to the good news for the Bolts was the return of Barclay Goodrow. Before the playoffs began, Tampa Bay announced the forward was out indefinitely with an upper-body injury but he skated in his first 2021 playoff game on Wednesday, logging three shots on goal and five hits in 16:43 TOI. Mathieu Joseph and Luke Schenn were both scratched with the Bolts electing to dress 12 forwards and six defensemen.
The Lightning will play the winner of the Carolina/Nashville series in the Second Round.
TBL | 6:16 Pat Maroon (1) - Tyler Johnson
TBL | 13:27 Steven Stamkos (3) - Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov - PPG
TBL | 14:36 Brayden Point (4) - Nikita Kucherov, Erik Cernak
TBL | 18:18 Alex Killorn (4) - Erik Cernak, Steven Stamkos - ENG