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Carter Verhaeghe wins it in overtime for Panthers, Florida takes 2-0 series lead vs. Lightning


SUNRISE — Carter Verhaeghe lifted a backhander just under the crossbar 2:59 into overtime, and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Tuesday night for a 2-0 lead in their NHL first-round playoff series.

It was the fifth OT winner in Verhaeghe’s career, coming on a play where Matthew Tkachuk got the puck to Anton Lundell — who found Verhaeghe. He waited for Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to commit, then put the puck over him to end it.

Sam Bennett, who left with an injury in the second period when he appeared to get hit by teammate Brandon Montour’s slap shot, and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 21 shots, including some highlight-reel saves.

Braden Point and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, which got two assists from Victor Hedman. Vasilevskiy stopped 34 shots.

Bobrovsky had two wild saves in the second period — one off his mask, the other a no-look dive that he got basically with his back to the play to deny Lightning defenseman Matt Dumba and preserve what was then a 2-2 tie.

And it stayed that way, all the way until the sudden end.

It was 2-0 Florida after one, with Bennett scoring at 6:16 — the Lightning unsuccessfully challenged that goal for goaltender interference — and Tarasenko connecting nearly nine minutes later. The Panthers controlled the opening 15 minutes, just like they did in Game 1, outshooting the Lightning 12-1 and the two-goal lead held up going into the second period.

That’s when the Lightning — who boast a roster loaded with Stanley Cup hoisters — showed their postseason poise.

Point scored 48 seconds into the second to cut the lead in half. Stamkos — who was an inch away from a power-play tally in the opening period — got one at 5:48 of the second to tie the game. It was his patented one-timer, just like the one he took a period earlier that got past Bobrovsky’s glove but hit the goalpost with such force that the rebound skipped all the way out of the zone.

So, Florida had lost two things — the lead, and Bennett. He left early in the second period, seeming to hold his wrist, and went directly down the tunnel toward the Panthers’ locker room as soon as he got off the ice. He did not return, with the Panthers calling it an upper-body injury.

Both teams frittered away chances in the third.

The Lightning — who had the best power play in the NHL during the regular season at 28.6% — had a 4-minute man advantage early in the third after Florida’s Eetu Luostarinen was whistled for high-sticking Erik Cernak.

Florida killed that off, then had a chance for a power play of its own when Tampa Bay’s Nicholas Paul interfered with Sam Reinhart. The power play lasted four seconds, over before it started because Verhaeghe was called for slashing Tampa Bay’s Luke Glendening.


Game 3 is Thursday in Tampa.

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