TAMPA, Fla. — The two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions meet up with the NHL’s best regular-season team in the Battle of Florida, Part 2.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers in a tight six-game series in the first round last year.
What makes this year's Panthers so hard to beat is their ability to claw back into games. They are never out of it. The “Comeback Cats” led the league in come-from-behind victories. Three of their four wins in the first round against the Washington Capitals were the comeback variety.
“It’s obviously a good skill set to have to be able to come back,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable playing with the lead. Can’t be nervous if you are up a couple of goals.”
“They has skilled players, they can execute, they scored the most goals in the league,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper added. “They have multiple comebacks. They have a score-first mentality and they are good at it. If you aren’t prepared to do something to slow them down it’s going to be a tough series.”
It will also make it a tough series without superstar center Brayden Point, who is “highly doubtful” for Game 1 after suffering a lower leg injury in Game 7 against Toronto. In Point’s absence, Nick Paul got more ice time and scored both goals.
“He’s put himself in situations to help us,” Cooper said. “Some went in, some didn’t. The ones that went in for him went in a really timely fashion. But I think he was trending in that direction the whole time.”
The Lightning and Panthers split the season series 2-2. But they combined nearly 200 penalty minutes in those games leads one to believe this will be a feisty series.
Puck drops tonight in Sunrise at 7 p.m.