Want a lesson in clutch? Watch the Panthers’ Verhaeghe, Bobrovsky in Game 2 win vs Lightning

In the big moments on the big stage for the Florida Panthers, chances are Carter Verhaeghe and Sergei Bobrovsky are going to be putting together clutch performances.

That was on full display down the stretch of the Panthers’ 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at Amerant Bank Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 opening-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Whether the clutch gene can be taught or not is up for debate, but the Panthers’ duo have showcased time and again in the playoffs that they can elevate their game when it matters the most.

Tuesday was merely the latest prime examples.

In net, Bobrovsky made what will easily be a contender for the save of the playoffs late in the second period, gliding backward across the crease to stop Lightning defenseman Matt Dumba’s shot with his arm to keep the game tied.

Bobrovsky ultimately stopped the final 16 shots that came his way to keep the game tied.

“When you slow the game down, there’s just some incredible saves going on in tight little areas,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

At the net, Verhaeghe scored the game-winner 2:59 into overtime, patiently waiting as Anton Lundell slid the puck past four Lightning skaters and then firing a backhanded shot top-shelf to beat Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

It was Verhaeghe’s fifth career playoff overtime goal, tied with Glenn Anderson, Corey Perry and Patrick Kane for the third-most in NHL history. The only two with more: Joe Sakic (eight) and Maurice Richard (six).

“He just has that ability to elevate his play,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I can’t explain it to you. It’s certainly not a teachable thing, but it seems like as the energy level increases in a game, his game fits. He operates at a very high frequency and when the game matches that frequency, good things happen for him.”

The Panthers needed those clutch moments after they let an early lead fade away. Florida jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Sam Bennett and Vladimir Tarasenko before allowing the Lightning to tie it up with a pair of goals from Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos in the first 5:46 of the second period.

After that, it was solid work from both teams’ defenses and outstanding performances in net from Bobrovsky and Vasilevskiy until Verhaeghe sealed the win in overtime.

Then again, winning in overtime during the playoffs really isn’t anything new for the Panthers. Florida went a perfect 7-0 in overtime last year on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

“We’re a pretty loose team,” Verhaeghe said. “When we go into situations where it’s do or die, we kind of leave it all out there. It’s just one play. Someone’s got to make a play. ... Obviously, I finished it, but it’s kind of how it goes in those situations where you’re just trying to make a play. Go out there, be loose and have fun. I mean, they go in sometimes, I guess.”

Added defenseman Aaron Ekblad: “There’s a lot of talk in the room just about being calm, being aware of the situation and just putting our best foot forward to continue to make plays. In that moment, it can be really tough to make plays, but I think it comes down from the coaching staff. They give us that confidence in the room between the third and the overtime to continue to make plays and not get too tight. So you give that confidence to good players and good things happen.”

Good things happened on Tuesday and now the Panthers are two wins away from taking the playoff series from their in-state rival.

The series now shifts to Tampa, with Games 3 and 4 being played at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m.).

“You’ve got to take care of home ice,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We’re playing some good hockey. Now, we move on.”

Other key moments

In the opening minute of the third period, the Panthers’ Eetu Luostarinen was handed a double-minor penalty for high-sticking Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak. The Panthers not only killed off the four minute penalty but held Tampa to just two shots in that stretch.

Bennett left the game early in the second period with an upper-body injury. Maurice did not have an immediate update on the center’s status postgame.

Forward Ryan Lomberg (illness) did not play in Game 2. Steven Lorentz took his spot in the lineup.