Apr 19, 2024 - Sports

Lightning take on rival Panthers as NHL playoffs begin

Matt Tomkins #90 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save against Pontus Holmberg #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the Amalie Arena on April 17.

The Lightning ended the season with a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Photo: Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The Lightning begin the NHL playoffs with a trip to South Florida to face the Panthers in a battle for the Sunshine State.

Why it matters: After three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Lightning collapsed in the first round last year. To make a deeper run this postseason, they'll need to upset their in-state rivals.

State of play: The Panthers (52-24-6) won the Atlantic Division while the Lightning (45-29-8) finished fourth.

  • Tampa Bay is led by star winger Nikita Kucherov while the Panthers will be counting on Matthew Tkachuk, who scored 11 goals last postseason, to get hot in the playoffs again.
  • Kucherov (No. 6) was the only Lightning player to make the top 20 of ESPN's playoff player rankings. Four Panthers did, including Tkachuk (No. 7).

How to watch: Sunday, 12:30pm, on ESPN.

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