The Florida Panthers will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Panthers (52-24-6), who will finish first in the Atlantic Division, will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series. The Lightning (44-29-8) will finish as the first wild card from the East.

The playoffs begin Saturday.

Florida and Tampa Bay played three times in the regular season, with the Panthers winning the first two, 3-2 on Dec. 27 and 9-2 on Feb. 17. The Lightning won 5-3 on March 16.

"It’s going to be great," Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. "Both teams know how to play hard, both teams have some high-end skill on it. It’ll be a great battle, great for the fans."

This season, the Panthers have been led by forward Sam Reinhart (94 points; 57 goals, 37 assists), forward Matthew Tkachuk (88 points; 26 goals, 62 assists), center Aleksander Barkov (80 points; 23 goals, 57 assists) and forward Carter Verhaeghe (72 points; 34 goals, 38 assists). Gustav Forsling leads their defensemen with 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists), and Brandon Montour (33 points; eight goals, 25 assists) is second.

"It’s always fireworks when we play these guys, always a good game," Verhaeghe said. "They’re an awesome team and really skilled. They have all the elements of a really good team."

Sergei Bobrovsky is 36-17-4 with a 2.37 GAA, .915 save percentage and six shutouts in 58 games. Backup Anthony Stolarz is 16-7-2 with a 2.03 GAA, .925 save percentage and two shutouts in 27 games (24 starts). The Panthers have allowed 2.41 goals per game, the lowest average in the NHL.

Against Tampa Bay, Florida was led by Tkachuk with six points (three goals, three assists). Reinhart (four goals, one assist) and forward Sam Bennett (two goals, three assists) each had five points, and Barkov had four points (all assists). Bobrovsky went 2-1-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in three games.

The Lightning are led by forward Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL with 142 points (43 goals, 99 assists), center Brayden Point (89 points; 45 goals, 44 assists), forward Steven Stamkos (79 points; 40 goals, 39 assists), and forward Brandon Hagel (73 points; 25 goals, 48 assists). Victor Hedman leads their defensemen with 76 points (13 goals, 63 assists).

Andrei Vasilevskiy is 30-20-2 with a 2.90 GAA, .900 save percentage and two shutouts in 52 games. Jonas Johansson, who was signed as a free agent on July 1, 2023, is 12-7-5 with a 3.37 GAA, .890 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games (24 starts). Matt Tomkins is 2-2-1 with a 3.19 GAA and .891 save percentage in five games.

Against Florida, Tampa Bay was led by Kucherov (two goals, two assists) and Stamkos (two goals, two assists) with four points each. Hagel (one goal, two assists) and Hedman (three assists) each had three points. Vasilevskiy went 1-2-0 with a 4.51 GAA and .883 save percentage in three games. Johansson made five saves on eight shots in relief on Feb. 17.

The Panthers and Lightning have faced off twice in the playoffs, with Tampa Bay winning each series. The Lightning won in six games in the first round in 2021 and swept the Panthers in the second round in 2022.

"They are a good team," Stolarz said. "We have had some tight games with them this season. They have a lot of playoff experience. It is going to be a tough matchup, but with this team, we can stack up against anyone."

Last season, the Panthers lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning were defeated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games in the first round.

The Lightning have won the Stanley Cup three times, most recently in 2021. The Panthers have never won the Cup.

NHL.com independent correspondent George Richards contributed to this report.

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