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Florida’s power play resembles Flyers’; Claude Giroux, Panthers fall



Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Former Flyer Claude Giroux and Florida got off to rough start as it dropped Game 1 to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, 4-1..

Claude Giroux, the former Philadelphia Flyers captain, has seen this before.

A power play that is beyond awful; a weak penalty kill that spelled the difference. If Giroux didn’t know better, he probably felt he was still in Philadelphia and not the Sunshine State.

Special teams killed Florida in its 4-1 loss to visiting Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday.

That quickly, the Lightning gained the home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series — something Florida worked hard to gain as it posted the NHL’s best regular-season record.

Florida, looking for the perfect shot and over-passing (sound familiar?), went 0 for 3 on the power play and is 0 for 21 in the playoffs.

Giroux, of course, watched the Philadelphia Flyers struggle with the power play before he was dealt to Florida about two months ago. The Flyers finished last in the NHL, converting on just 12.6% of their power-play chances.

Conversely, Tampa Bay connected on 3 of 6 power-play opportunities in Tuesday’s series opener. The Lightning thrived despite missing dynamic center Brayden Point because of an injury.

“I think we were the better team five-on-five,” said Florida defenseman Gustav Forsling, who played 23:11 and had three shots. “We need to stay out of the box and keep it going.”

Former Flyer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, 37, gave the Bolts a 2-1 lead when he scored on a rebound with 16:25 left in the third. He beat Sergei Bobrovsky, another ex-Flyer.

It was Tampa’s lone even-strength goal of the night. The Lightning got power-play goals from Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov, and Central Jersey’s blossoming Ross “The Boss” Colton.

The latter two goals were scored in the final 4:06 as the Lightning pulled away from a late 2-1 lead.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (33 saves on 34 shots) outplayed Bobrovsky (32 saves on 36 shots).

Giroux, one of the heroes of Florida’s six-game series win over Washington in Round 1, played well in the defeat. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) and won 67% of his faceoffs while playing nearly 19 minutes.

Florida, which is in Round 2 for the first time since 1996, will try to bounce back Thursday in another home game. It won’t be easy because Tampa, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, is playing with great defensive structure.

“We’ll be better next game,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said.

The Panthers will have to be if they want this to be a long series.

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