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Disallowed Goals Dash Tampa Bay Lightning’s Season Finale Dreams

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In the aftermath of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Game 5 defeat to the Florida Panthers, which spelled the end of their Stanley Cup playoff journey, head coach Jon Cooper voiced vehement criticism over two contentious goalie interference calls that heavily favored the opposition.

“This is clearly a turning point in the game. If anyone’s going to talk about this game, they’re going to talk about the goals that were taken away,” Cooper said after the 6-1 loss to Florida, a score inflated by two empty-net goals by the Panthers.

The first incident, triggered by a coach’s challenge from Florida, occurred at the 13-minute mark of the first period. Upon review, it was determined that Tampa Bay’s Anthony Duclair impeded Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s positioning, nullifying Anthony Cirelli’s goal. Cooper argued that Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling had interfered with Duclair.

The second goalie interference controversy unfolded late in the second period, as Cirelli’s goal was waved off due to alleged incidental contact with Bobrovsky amidst a skirmish with defenseman Niko Mikkola. Despite Tampa Bay’s challenge, the call stood, prompting Cooper to accuse Bobrovsky of embellishment.

In Cooper’s eyes, neither incident violated the essence of the goalie interference rule, lamenting what he perceived as overzealous protection of goaltenders in net-front battles.

While acknowledging that the disputed calls altered the game’s momentum, Cooper stopped short of attributing the series loss solely to those decisions.

The Panthers emerged victorious with a 4-1 series triumph, setting the stage for a potential showdown with the winner of the Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs clash—a rematch that could mirror last season’s thrilling first-round upset by Florida.

For the Lightning, the offseason looms large, marked by critical decisions, including the future of veteran captain Steven Stamkos. As an unrestricted free agent, Stamkos’s tenure with the franchise hangs in the balance, notwithstanding his impressive performance during the regular season.

Downplaying speculation about Stamkos’s departure, Cooper remains focused on addressing the challenges ahead for the Lightning organization.

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