Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The Florida Panthers can’t afford to lose two games against the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion.
Florida fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of its second-round series, and it needs a better performance to get something out of its first two home games.
The Lightning once again showed their championship experience in Game 1, flexing their muscles most on the power play.
The Colorado Avalanche defended their home ice Tuesday and should be in good shape to beat the St. Louis Blues for the second straight game.
St. Louis gave Colorado their best in Game 1 and still came up short with an overtime loss.
Colorado has all the confidence and momentum on its side, and it should continue to do so after Thursday’s second game.
Thursday NHL playoff schedule
Odds on DraftKings sportsbook
Tampa Bay (+140; bet $100 to win $140) in Florida (-160; bet $160 to win $100) (7pm ET, TNT)
St. Louis (+200) in Colorado (-245) (9:30 p.m. ET. TNT)
Florida gains lead in series with Tampa Bay
The Florida Panthers threw the first bat of their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Florida even had a 1-0 lead after the first third thanks to Anthony Duclair’s goal, but was unable to convert this advantage.
Tampa Bay leveled the contest with a power play goal from Corey Perry in the second period and then scored three goals in the third period.
Florida needs a similar start in Game 2 and then a more complete performance over the next 40 minutes to pressure the Lightning.
The Presidents’ Trophy winner must focus on improving their special teams’ play. Florida conceded three times on the power play.
The even strength goals are even after one game, but if Florida keeps giving up power-play goals, the streak could end prematurely.
Tampa Bay scored the three goals for the man advantage without Brayden Point, who will miss his second straight game with a lower body injury.
That’s a scary thought for the Panthers, but the only way to resolve this is to be less reckless on the ice and commit fewer penalties.
Florida netted 34 shots in Game 1. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Claude Giroux scored 11 of those tries together.
The Panthers need a similar level of production from their star players to be able to match the Lightning’s consistent performance again.
As long as the Florida players stay out of the box, it could play level hockey and send the series back to Tampa level at a game apiece.
Colorado keeps rolling
Colorado endured perhaps its biggest test on home ice of its series with St. Louis in Game 1.
The Avalanche won their fifth straight game of the postseason in overtime on Tuesday night.
St. Louis batted first and then scored the only goal of the third period to force overtime.
But the Blues were unable to capitalize on the momentum gained by Jordan Kyrou’s third-period record. Josh Manson eventually scored the winning goal for the Avs.
Colorado beat St. Louis 54-25, and that number could give us a clue as to what to expect in Game 2.
Jordan Binnington probably won’t make 51 saves again. He was fantastic in Game 1 when the Blues needed him, but the Avs should make adjustments on offense.
Nathan MacKinnon led the Avs in Game 1 with eight shots. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he scored multiple goals in Game 2 based on his offensive performance.
Eight other Colorado players totaled four or more shots in the opener. Colorado could dominate the series if those numbers stay where they are.
St. Louis needs its defense to limit scoring chances to take some pressure off Binnington, but it may not be able to do that with Colorado’s depth of attack showing through, as it did in Game 1.
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