The Tampa Bay Lightning opened Round One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers Sunday afternoon at Amerant Bank Arena.

Following a quick start to the game for the home team, Sam Reinhart opened the scoring at the 6:17 mark of the first period to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. After Gustav Forsling took a pass from Aleksander Barkov, the Florida defenseman sifted a shot towards the net that was redirected by Reinhart and past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the first goal of the series.

As the Bolts continued to weather the pressure from the Panthers, Brandon Hagel got Tampa Bay on the board with 3:56 remaining in the opening period to make it a 1-1 game.

Following a faceoff win from Anthony Cirelli in the offensive zone, Steven Stamkos quickly gained possession and wired a shot on goal that was stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky. But after beating his man to the loose puck in front, Cirelli fired another shot hard into the pads of Bobrovsky, which led to another rebound in front for Hagel to hammer into the back of the net for the Lightning’s first goal of the postseason.

As the clock ticked down on a scoreless middle frame, Nick Paul was assessed a late holding penalty that resulted in Tampa Bay opening the third period on the penalty kill.

With 39 seconds remaining on the Paul penalty, Florida capitalized with the man advantage when Barkov patiently held the puck before sending a hard pass to the back door, where an unmarked Carter Verhaeghe was waiting to redirect his first goal of the playoffs past Vasilevskiy to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead at the 58-second mark of the third period.

The Lightning continued to push for the game-tying goal for the remainder of the final frame butfell into a two-goal hole after an unfortunate bounce off a stanchion ended up right in the middle of the ice on the stick of Matthew Tkachuk, who deposited the puck into the back of the empty net with 2:05 remaining in regulation to put Florida up 3-1.

The Bolts were able to get one goal back with 8.3 seconds remaining in the third when Nikita Kucherov sent a pass across the offensive zone to Stamkos, who fired a perfect shot top shelf to make it 3-2. But it was too little, too late for Tampa Bay as the final buzzer signaled the end of the contest and put the Lightning in a 1-0 hole in the series.

The Bolts will get right back on the ice with a practice Monday afternoon before the puck drops on Game 2 Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.  

Bolts by the Numbers

- Brandon Hagel scored Tampa Bay’s first goal of the postseason, his fourth career playoff goal. Among all Lightning skaters in last year’s playoffs, Hagel ranked tied for third in points with five points over six games (1-4—5). Hagel recorded a career-high 75 points (26-49—75) and was one of three Bolts skaters to play all 82 games this season.

- Steven Stamkos scored his first goal of the postseason and added one assist for his 26thcareer multi-point playoff game, the second-most among all skaters in Lightning franchise history (most: Nikita Kucherov, 46). Stamkos has now scored 46 career playoff goals, the third-most in Tampa Bay franchise history (most: Kucherov, 53). Since the start of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stamkos has scored three goals, tied for the most among all Bolts skaters.

- Nikita Kucherov recorded his 108th career postseason assist and remains the only player in Lightning franchise history to record 100 playoff helpers. Among all active NHL skaters, only Sidney Crosby (130) and Evgeni Malkin (113) have logged more postseason assists than Kucherov. Crosby (77) is the only active skater with more primary playoff assists than Kucherov’s 67.

- Brayden Point picked up one assist, the 43rd helper of his playoff career. Point is one of five skaters to log more than 40 postseason assists in Lightning franchise history. Point’s career point total is now up to 83 (40-43—83), the fifth-most among all skaters in Tampa Bay franchise history (most: Nikita Kucherov, 161).

- Anthony Cirelli recorded his 24th career postseason assist, tied for the 11th-most among all skaters in Lightning franchise history (also: Mikhail Sergachev). Cirelli’s 41 career playoff points (17-24—41) are the 11th-most in Tampa Bay franchise history.

- Andrei Vasilevskiy got the start in goal for the Lightning and made 25 saves on 27 shots against. Vasilevskiy has made 3,088 playoff saves, the 12th-most among all goaltenders in NHL history.

Bolts Quotes

Jon Cooper: “They're at home. It's Game One. Crowd's pumped up. They had all this energy. Give them tons of credit. They went to a game plan and we abandoned ours before it even started. I give the guys credit. They weathered the storm for like 12, 13 minutes, whatever it was. And then we played. That's the problem. Sixteen teams are out. Now there's only 16 teams left, so the margin of error is so much smaller now. Then you turn the game into a 45-minute game instead of a 60-minute game. You're giving us a little bit less of a chance to do anything.”

Brandon Hagel: “I think there was a lot of good things in the game. Just keep building. Obviously, you've got to win one on the road to win a series, so we've got another crack in a couple days and we'll go from there.”

Anthony Cirelli: “We'll watch the video and talk about some things that we've got to be better at to come out on the other side. But it's a short memory. It's one game, no matter if you lose by one or lose by more. It doesn't matter. Just have to go out there and get the next one.”

Victor Hedman: “We settled into the game. We knew that usually the home team comes out hard. It feels like that in every series so far that we've watched. We've just got to make sure that we're ready to go and try to tilt the ice the other way in Game 2.”

Krenner’s Three Stars

1. Aleksander Barkov

2. Sergei Bobrovsky

3. Steven Stamkos

Lightning Look Ahead

- Game 2 – Tuesday, April 23 at Florida Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET, Amerant Bank Arena

- Game 3 – Thursday, April 25 vs. Florida Panthers, 7:00 p.m. ET, AMALIE Arena

- Game 4 – Saturday, April 27 vs. Florida Panthers, 5:00 p.m. ET, AMALIE Arena