Bobrovsky makes incredible save during Panthers-Lightning playoff game

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky’s back was turned to the play. He didn’t have his stick. He couldn’t see the puck.

No problem.

The Florida goalie pulled off perhaps the save of the year on Tuesday night, stoning Tampa Bay’s Matt Dumba late in the second period to preserve a 2-2 tie — and his heroics were rewarded when Carter Verhaeghe scored in overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 win over the Lightning in Game 2 their NHL first-round playoff series.

Bobrovsky explained it thusly: “Desperation,” he said.

Hey, whatever works.

Dumba had nothing but net to shoot at — and Bobrovsky, without his stick and diving blindly at a puck he couldn’t see — somehow made the save.

“That one save, Bob didn’t quit on it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s probably more on us than him. But you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”

How it all developed: Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli skated down the slot with the puck and wound up sending it off the end boards, the rebound getting controlled by Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Bobrovsky slid over to face Stamkos, who was to the left of the Florida goalie.

Stamkos slid the puck into open ice across the slot to Dumba, who one-timed a backhander toward the net. Bobrovsky’s back was to Dumba, meaning he had no chance but to throw his body across the goal mouth.

Bobrovsky dove with his left hand, his glove hand, extended — and his wrist got into the puck’s way.

“Call it skill, call it luck, call it whatever you want,” Stamkos said. “I mean, he’s an athletic goalie, he makes a desperation move ... obviously, that was a big save in that moment of the game. Great goalies make saves like that. Just unfortunate that we weren’t on the other end of it.”

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said he was busy yelling at someone on the bench about a play that had just happened — “straight profanity,” he confessed afterward — but noted that the Bobrovsky save made everything feel better at a time when Florida was reeling after wasting an early 2-0 lead.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, usually a fairly stoic guy, threw his hands skyward in celebration when he saw Bobrovsky find a way in that moment.

“My vantage point was the bench, in shock,” Ekblad said. “It was incredible. You love to see it.”


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Reynolds is the national basketball writer for The Associated Press. He’s based in Miami, has covered the Heat since 2003 and has covered every Winter and Summer Olympics since 2002.