Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux went down firing.
Giroux had a game-high nine shots Monday, but didn’t connect against all-world goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Neither did his Florida Panthers teammates as they lost to host Tampa Bay, 2-0, and were swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals, four games to none.
Florida, which led the NHL with 122 points and had the league’s highest-scoring team in the regular season, managed just three goals in the series.
Tampa Bay, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, outscored the Panthers, 13-3, over the four games.
Vasilevskiy stopped 151 of 154 shots in the series, a ridiculous .981 save percentage. The 27-year-old goaltender has shutouts in six of his last seven series-clinching victories. Remarkably, he has stopped 199 of 200 shots in those seven wins.
Florida lost despite playing its best game of the series. Vasilevskiy was the reason.
Giroux, acquired two months ago in a deal that sent Owen Tippett and first- and third-round draft picks to Philly, was upstaged by former Flyers farmhand Pat Maroon on Monday. Maroon, a physical 6-foot-3, 238-pound left winger, scored on a tip-in to snap a scoreless tie with 13:44 left in the third.
It turned out to be the game-winner, and Ondrej Palat added an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining.
Maroon has won the Cup in each of the last three seasons — one with St. Louis, two with the Lightning. He was dismissed from the Phantoms in 2010 after an alleged physical confrontation with coach Greg Gilbert.
GOOD GOAL 🚨 pic.twitter.com/J2QYTKJog4
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 24, 2022
Giroux, 34, was terrific with the Panthers. He had 23 points in 18 regular-season games, and eight points over 10 playoff games. He was Florida’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs.
Now that the season is over, there will be lots of speculation in the coming weeks as to where Giroux, a prospective unrestricted free agent, will play in the future. Will he return to the cap-strapped Flyers? Can they afford him? Will he decide to sign with the Florida Panthers? Can they afford him? Will he end up somewhere else, like his hometown Ottawa Senators?
Wherever he goes, he won’t be cheap because Giroux showed he still has plenty left in the tank.
The Flyers signed winger Linus Sandin to a one-year, two-way contract that has a $750,000 cap hit. He had eight goals and 20 points in 36 games with the Phantoms this season. … Florida’s power play was 1 for 31 in the playoffs. “I take a lot of blame for the power play; that was my fault,” interim Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. … Until Monday, Florida had not been shut out all season. … Tampa, which will face the Carolina-Rangers survivor in the conference finals, has won its last 10 playoff series. … Former Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (24 saves) had an outstanding game for Florida. … Aleksander Barkov (39) and Jonathan Huberdeau (30) combined for 69 regular-season goals but failed to score against the Lightning in the playoffs.