Lightning clinch a round of home ice, eliminate Panthers from playoffs

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will start their first-round series at home this year. They also made sure that they’ll be the only Florida-based NHL team to see postseason action.

With the certainty of a 4-0 win, the Lightning throttled the Florida Panthers at home, killing any slim chance the Cats had at making the postseason. It wasn’t just about spite for Tampa Bay, though, naturally; they’ll enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round of the 2015 playoffs because of this win.

Steven Stamkos had a big night, scoring two goals after a lengthy slump and adding an assist for good measure. Tyler Johnson fit right back in during his first game back from injury issues, collecting a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop pitched a 33-save shutout.

It’s remarkable that the Lightning keep playing well despite injury after injury. They’d naturally prefer to stride into the postseason instead of hobbling there, but they’re finding ways to win nonetheless.

Florida, meanwhile, will deal with the uncomfortably familiar problem of finding what to do after the 82nd game of the season.