Bolts advances to Conference Finals

TAMPA, Fla. — Andrei Vasilevskiy made 49 saves and the Tampa Bay Lightning completed a four-game sweep over the Florida Panthers with a 2-0 win Monday night that fired the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in eight years.

Pat Maroon broke a scoreless tie, beating Zach Bogosian’s shot past Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky before the puck sank into the net just over six minutes into the third period. Ondrej Palat added an empty-netter with 22 seconds left.

Vasilevskiy won his sixth straight game, a streak that began with the Lightning facing a 3-2 series deficit in the first round. It was his sixth shutout in his last seven series wins.

Defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner limited the Panthers, who averaged 4.11 NHL goals while compiling the league’s best regular season record, to just three goals in four games.

The Lightning joined the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens as the only franchises to win at least 10 consecutive playoffs. Their bid to become the first team in 40 years to win three straight Stanley Cup titles will continue in the Eastern Final against the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers.

PICTURES | TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS MATCH 4

The defending champions persevered on Monday night despite goals from Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov being canceled within 48 seconds of the second period – the first after Florida coach Andrew Brunette was challenged and a lengthy review of the replay determined that Palat pulled the puck out of the boards before Mikhail Sergachev fired a shot that Killorn tipped past Bobrovsky.

Less than a minute later, Tampa Bay appeared to regain the lead only for the replay to confirm that Anthony Cirelli won a faceoff in the left circle with a hand pass that Kucherov pierced through Bobrovsky.

The Panthers became the first Presidents’ Trophy winners to be swept by a defending Stanley Cup champion in the playoffs since Edmonton passed Calgary en route to another title in 1988.

Vasilevskiy, who came on Monday night having conceded a goal in each of his previous four games, has allowed total goals in his last seven decisive series wins.

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