A day later, 'The Save' still had Panthers marveling at Bobrovsky's NHL playoff heroics

Updated Apr. 24, 2024 2:14 p.m. ET

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — In the moment, The Save kept the game tied. By night's end, it became a game-saver since Florida went on to prevail in overtime.

And the way Panthers coach Paul Maurice sees it, the impact from Sergei Bobrovsky's moment on Tuesday night will only continue — with a reach beyond these NHL playoffs and this series between Florida and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It won a game. It may grow the game, too.

“There'll be a number of kids in the driveway this weekend and they'll all want to play goal for the first time,” Maurice said. “For me, that's how it happens. They see something kind of magical and have to go and try it, right? You get five kids and there'll be a street hockey game going somewhere, everybody's going to want to be Bobrovsky, they'll be flipping around the net, trying to do the spin-o-rama kick saves.”


Memo to those kids: Good luck.

The hyperbole kept coming Wednesday: Bobbery, some were calling it, a play on Bobrovsky's last name and obvious nickname — Bob. Save of the playoffs, others said. Save of the year, save of all-time, you get the idea. It was that good, so good that even the Lightning had to tip their collective caps out of respect.

“Hell of a save,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

There have been something like 4 million saves in NHL history, and Bobrovsky is responsible for 20,681 of them. There's no definitive ranking of them all, of course, but in this moment anyway, Bobrovsky's “how-did-he-do-that?” play stands alone.

“I think it's the best save I've ever seen in my life," Florida's Vladimir Tarasenko said Wednesday. “It's amazing. I don't know what else to say.”

Even retired football star JJ Watt took notice. “What a damn save,” he wrote on social media.

Bobrovsky made the save like this: He was facing left, looking at Stamkos, who had the puck relatively close to the net. Stamkos saw tons of clear ice on the other side of the slot and sent the puck into unoccupied space, where Lightning defenseman Matt Dumba tapped a backhander from maybe 10 feet away toward what was a wide-open net.

Key word: Was. Bobrovsky — out of “desperation,” he'd say later — dove backward across the goal mouth, reached out blindly with his left wrist and somehow got his glove side in the way of Dumba's shot to keep the game tied at 2-2. It wound up being a game-saver; the Panthers got a goal from Carter Verhaeghe 2:59 into overtime for a 3-2 win.

“That's a lifetime of working your (butt) off, the ability to know where your body is so that mentally you wouldn't quit on that play, that you would think you still have a chance to stop that puck,” Maurice said.

Panthers forward Anton Lundell was far more succinct: “Pretty sick,” he said.

That was “sick” in the good sense. The Lightning probably just felt sick in the conventional sense — especially since their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was basically a brick wall for most of the evening as well. Vasilevskiy didn't have the flying, flailing save like Bobrovsky, but he stoned Florida's offense for the entirety of the second and third periods to give the Lightning a chance.

Florida leads the series 2-0; Game 3 is in Tampa on Thursday.

“It's been unbelievable goaltending. I think that's been the highlight of the entire series, back and forth,” Lightning forward Brandon Hagel said Wednesday. “We've obviously got Vasi; as we say, the best goaltender in the league, and they've got a really good goaltender over there. It's going to be tough to get pucks by him and it's going to be tough to get pucks by our goalie as well. Hopefully we can just maybe try to get one more past them than they do us.”

It's rare that teams will praise the other side during a series; that's often reserved for when it's over and the traditional handshakes have happened. But the Lightning lauded Bobrovsky after what he did Tuesday, and in turn, the Panthers raved about Vasilevskiy as well.

“Both goalies were so good in that game,” Maurice said. “And the ones that didn't look like much might be the best saves, given the amount of work that you had to be tactically right on time when you got there. Some outstanding saves.”


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl