2022 Stanley Cup playoffs: Lightning rout Panthers in Game 3 to take commanding series lead

The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of a four-game sweep as they dominated the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Amalie Arena.

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and three assists, Steven Stamkos scored twice, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves for the Lightning.

"At this time of year, it's about winning and you need to do what's going to produce the wins", Stamkos said. "It's not always pretty and it's not always going to be highlight-reel plays, although there are some, especially with [Kucherov] out there."

Sam Reinhart scored for the Panthers, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves.

Florida, which averaged an NHL-best 4.11 goals per game this season, has scored three goals in this series.

"The will -- they're blocking shots, we're not, really", said coach Andrew Brunette. "They're managing different situations, and I think we've managed that fine, to be honest.

"They've just got a little bit more will. When there's a loose puck, they're kind of outbattling us, and they want it a little bit more."

Teams that take a 3-0 lead are 197-4 (.980) winning a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series.

Story of the game

Corey Perry opened the scoring when he redirected a Ryan McDonagh shot past Bobrovsky.

Reinhart tied it with 3:53 to play in the first period as he scored on a one-timer from the slot on a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau. The goal was Florida's first on the power-play in the postseason.

"It's tough not to get frustrated", Reinhart said of the Panthers' going 0 for 25 with the man advantage before his goal. "I think there's certain things we're doing well, but obviously it's not enough bodies around the net picking up these opportunities.

"It's certainly frustrating when you're that close but you're not ultimately getting it in."

Erik Cernak put Tampa Bay in front less than three minutes into the second period as his shot from the left face-off circle beat Bobrovsky top shelf to the far post.

Embed from Getty Images

"It was a great effort by all my teammates, everybody on the ice", he said. "We win the faceoff and then they find me on the open slot so I just have to pick the corner and luckily that it went in."

Stamkos made it a two-goal game with a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Kucherov.

"It was certainly a big goal for us", he explained. "[Victor Hedman] makes a great stretch pass to 'Kuch' and he makes a good play. 

"It was a big goal. We like our game going into the third with the lead this time of year."

Kucherov and Stamkos scored empty-net goals 1:45 apart to provide the final margin.

"We're [darn] pleased with what's going on here, but you know, we haven't done anything yet", said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. "We only won a couple games, but the series isn't over.

"Until you start checking off that fourth win, there's nothing we can sit and hang our hat on. So we're inching our way closer, but this is far from over."

"I'm sure they're obviously disappointed", Brunette said. "We fall behind, they're a tough team to come back on. And we kind of fell behind here this whole series and we haven't found that extra gear from behind, which we have all year.

"But you have to play one game to bring it home and keep it alive."