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The Lightning aim to be one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the third straight season when they play the Panthers in Game 3 of their second-round series this afternoon at Amalie Arena.

Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 after winning the first two games at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.

Lightning Star center Brayden Point will miss a third straight game. Forward Brandon Hagel, who did not practice Saturday, is in the lineup after being a game-time decision.

Follow our live updates throughout the game:

First period

Tampa's Katie Sloan, right, joins Tampa's Wissline Augustin, center, at the watch party in Thunder Alley before the start of Game 3 Sunday at Amalie Arena.
Tampa’s Katie Sloan, right, joins Tampa’s Wissline Augustin, center, at the watch party in Thunder Alley before the start of Game 3 Sunday at Amalie Arena. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Nikita Kucherov redirects Victor Hedman’s pass just outside the net

High Groove Brandon Hagel Wristband Gloved by Sergei Bobrovsky

Ross Colton stripped of puck by Aaron Ekbland in 2v1

Zach Bogosian shot into the run pushed aside by Bobrovsky

Corey Perry a timer from the left circle blocked by Radko Gudas

Andrei Vasilevskiy saves MacKenzie Weegar after Mikhail Sergachev failed to get the puck out of the zone

Weegar’s shot from the tip that does not reach the net

Kucherov backhand shot from a sharp angle deflected by Bobrovsky

Nick Paul goes to the locker room after a big hit on Ben Chiarot’s boards

Victor Hedman’s blast from the left wing stopped by Bobrovsky’s bag

Vasilevskiy stops Maxim Manin on a breakaway with a saved glove after a loss in the neutral zone

Vasileskiy stops Sam Reinhart head-on with a glove

Sam Bennett penalized for holding Ryan McDonagh, giving Lightning his first power play (8:54 to go)

Paul back at Lightning Bank

Corey Perry shot from the front blocked by Aaron Ekblad

Bobrovsky saves Hedman’s shot

Alexsander Barkov picks up Steven Stamkos’ stick, knocks the puck out of the zone

Pre-game scouting report

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) and defensemen Ryan McDonagh (27) and Erik Cernak (81) work to keep the puck off the net during Game 2 Thursday at Sunrise.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) and defensemen Ryan McDonagh (27) and Erik Cernak (81) work to keep the puck off the net during Game 2 Thursday at Sunrise. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Commonly called the race to four, two teams compete in a series of seven games to win four games and advance to the next round.

In their second-round series against the Panthers, the Lightning seem to prefer one slog to four.

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And why not?

By working hard in all three zones, shutting down the middle of the ice, staying disciplined and being opportunistic on offense, Tampa Bay has set the pace, slowing down Florida’s high-flying offense and quickly moving to a two-game lead.

Related: Anthony Cirelli is a prime example of Lightning’s cohesive culture.

The Lightning have committed to the defense as a five-man unit, allowing a total of just two goals in the first 120 minutes of the series. Carter Verhaeghe, who scored three game-winning goals in Florida’s first-round series against Washington, didn’t have a shot on goal in Game 2.

The Bolts have sacrificed their bodies, blocking 40 shots in the first two games, and have kept the Panthers off the scoreboard in all seven of their man-up opportunities. Of course, your best penalty taker is your goalkeeper, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has been brilliant, saving 68 of 70 shots in the series.

As a result, the Lightning find themselves two wins away from earning a spot in the Eastern Conference finals as the series moves to Tampa for Games 3 and 4.

In the absence of star center Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov has made the two biggest plays of the series, turning around Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad before setting up Corey Perry for the tying goal in Game 1 and then make a blind backhand pass to Ross Colton for the winner in the final seconds of Game 2.

With Perry replacing Point at the bumper position, Lightning’s power play has been on fire, converting at 44.4 percent (4 of 9) of his chances. Perry has scored two of those goals.

Vasilevskiy, who has played every game during the 2020 ’21 and ’22 postseasons, will again start this afternoon in the first of back-to-back games. He is likely to be back in the net on Monday despite not playing back-to-back halves all season.

Related: If this is a rivalry, someone has to tell Tampa Bay and Miami.

Point remains out of the Lightning with a lower body injury. Forward Brandon Hagel is in the lineup after being a game-time decision after not practicing Saturday due to “body maintenance.”

Follow our live updates, starting at 1:30 pm, as Tampa Bay aims to be one win away from advancing to the conference finals for the third straight season.

game day scene

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Reference-www.tampabay.com

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