Panthers advance to Stanley Cup Finals after weathering the storm
SUNRISE, Florida –
Matthew Tkachuk delivered to Florida again. Sergei Bobrovsky again rejected Carolina.
The wait is over: After 27 years, the Florida Panthers — no longer a hockey game — will compete again for the game’s biggest prize.
Tkachuk scored his second goal of the game with 4.9 seconds left, sending the Panthers past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 and into the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1996.
Bobrovsky saved 36 shots to end his stellar run — four games, four by one goal, three of which were essentially sudden deaths. The first two times were during overtime, and this time could be as well.
The Panthers will compete in Vegas or Dallas for the Stanley Cup starting sometime next week; Vegas currently leads the Western Conference series with a score of 3-0.
The Panthers have scored 10 goals in this series and Bobrovsky ensures that’s all they need. They are the 8th seed, the bottom team, the longest shot.
And now, the beasts of the East. Tkachuk came in last summer and said he wanted to bring Florida a Trophy. He has four more wins left.
“It’s amazing,” said Bobrovsky. “We showed resilience… and we’re lucky to have Chucky around. He knows how to score big goals.”
NHL Senior Vice President Brian Jennings was the man tasked with handing out the Prince of Wales Cup. After some shots, Aleksander Barkov – the captain – grabbed it and slid it away. Some teams touch it. Some are not. Some Panthers did, but Barkov didn’t get over it.
That will wait for the big prize.
Ryan Lomberg and Anthony Duclair had other goals for Florida, where for the first time in franchise history completed a series.
Jordan Staal — his brothers Eric and Marc play for the Panthers — took a penalty with 57 seconds left in regulation, setting up a power play that Tkachuk ended up with.
Jesper Fast looked like he could have saved the whole season for Carolina, scoring the winning goal to 3:22 in allotment time. Paul Stastny and Teuvo Teravainen had the first two goals of the night for the Hurricanes, while Brady Skjei and Jordan Martinook each had two assists.
But the night – the series as well – belongs to the Panthers. They were wiped out by Colorado in the 1996 final.
The towels waved, the lights flashed, and the fans wasted no time letting the Panthers know they were ready for a clincher.
Tkachuk made it 2-0 thanks to a powerful play in the middle of the first half. Carolina – who won the 113th place championship in the regular season – took a 2-1 lead after the first goal thanks to a Stastny goal, and Teravainen equalized early in the second half.
Lomberg’s goal midway through the second half gave Florida the lead once again. It went on like that until Fast scored the equalizer with 3:22 left, and then Tkachuk finished the game — sending the Panthers to the title ring in his first season.
Panthers general manager Bill Zito was announced earlier Wednesday as a finalist for the NHL GM of the year. … Tkachuk’s two goals earned him 21 points in the knockout stages – extending his one-season record after his Florida season, which was 17 by Dave Lowry in 1996. … Slavin was quickly disqualified for the rest of the match after Bennett’s hit, with what Storm said was an “upper body injury.” Slavin staggered as he tried to stand up. … Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel – who also regularly attends Miami Heat games in the knockouts this spring – drummed before the game. When he’s done, there’s no mic to drop, he just drops the mallet instead.
EDGE TWO GOALS
Tkachuk’s goal in the opening half gave Florida a 2-0 lead – and marked the first time, in nearly 14 innings to that point, that a team had taken a two-goal lead in this series. Every action comes with a draw or someone taking the lead in the first 272 minutes (including all injury time) of the series.