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Panthers' biggest Game 1 bright spot was Sergei Bobrovsky. 'We need him to do that.'

David Wilson, Miami Herald on

Published in Hockey

As the seconds ticked away in the second period of the Florida Panthers' Game 1 loss to the New York Islanders, Sergei Bobrovsky stared at the possibility of a postseason game slipping away from the Panthers.

A giveaway set up a 2-on-1 for the Islanders as Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson charged down the ice against Riley Stillman with less than 40 seconds left in the period. It would take either a spectacular save or a spectacular defensive effort to keep Florida from entering the third period trailing by three goals.

Bobrovsky steeled himself to cover the whole net. He knew a shot would probably come cleanly, he just didn't know whether it would be from Beauvillier or Nelson.

Beauvillier slid a pass by Stillman and over to Nelson on the right side of the ice, and Bobrovsky sprawled to his left. By the time Nelson slapped a one-timer toward the net, the goaltender was where he needed to be to block the shot. Not even a minute of game time later, the Panthers cut New York's two-goal lead in half.

"He was outstanding in the game for us," coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday.

Games like those -- and, specifically, plays like those -- are exactly why Florida gave Bobrovsky a seven-year, $70 million deal in the offseason. The Panthers were outplayed for most of the day, their offense underachieved and their defense made a handful of potentially catastrophic mistakes, and still Bobrovsky had them in it all the way until the end.

 

He was the single biggest reason Florida only lost 2-1 in Game 1 of the qualifying round at Scotiabank Arena. He remains the Panthers' greatest hope to turn around and win the series, even after he had just a .900 save percentage and 3.25 goals against average in the regular season.

"Bob played amazing that game," defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. "We need him to do that every single night."

Jonathan Huberdeau shared the same sort of message Saturday, although with even more confidence in his goaltender.

"Bob was really good tonight," the All-Star left wing said after the one-goal loss. "He's going to be good the whole series."

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