Just two decades after Tampa Bay's historic first-round collapse against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the returning Stanley Cup Champions were matched with a tough opponent at the Panthers, a group which had their number all year long before meeting at the first round.
Labeled the"Battle of Florida," both scrappy teams were branch competitions for the entire 2020-2021 year and managed to clinch the 2nd and 3rd entire seeds locking them in a battle for those books.
Fans had been waiting for this a series since the teams took the ice back in the mid-90s but never met in the postseason due to positions and divisional conflict matchups.
However, if this show educated fans anything: it's the regular season doesn't matter if you can not make it happen at the postseason when it counts.
"Before the playoffs, we had been among the contenders," Panthers centre and captain Aleksander Barkov explained. "We played really great baseball during the normal season. We showed everyone what we had been capable of. We played very good hockey at the playoffs. I know we did not win matches, but we played pretty great 5-on-5 hockey. We had a lot of opportunities. We simply couldn't win games. That's the point of hockey; you have got to win games. We won two, but you've got to win ."
That announcement couldn't be any more accurate. While any enthusiast in the league would be remiss if they didn't admire the tenacity the Panthers showed all season long.
The six-game show was one for the record books as both teams put up more than one hundred shots in the show, and Tampa even found a franchise record 24 goals from the series--19 of which came from the first four matches.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said it was the team's"best effort by far" in the postseason following the win.
He shut the door. The power play got one. It was only a 60-minute effort. That is exactly what is necessary to close out series, especially against good teams. It had been great to be a part of that effort "
As stated previously, the Panthers had the Lightning's number all season long, however, a ton of rocky postseason starts in the two veteran goaltenders on the group seriously squandered their opportunities in the collection.
In Game 6, the Florida Panthers turned yet again to the 20-year-old, former first-round choice in the 2019 NHL Draft, Spencer Knight, to correct the group's course. But it wouldn't be enough, even with a phenomenal 36-save night.
The future is bright for the Cats, but they neglected to steal the Lightning's thunder on the way to their second consecutive Cup win.