Sunday, July 21, 2024

Panthers led by Tkachuk sweep the Cane to reach the Stanley Cup Final


Christine SheltonESPN NHL ReporterMay 24, 2023, 11:02 p.m. ET3 minutes to read

SUNRISE, Fla. — Matthew Tkachuk scored on a power play with 4.9 seconds left to complete Florida’s sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and send the Panthers to their first Stanley Cup Final in 27 years.

The 4-3 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night gave the Panthers their first playoff series in franchise history. Florida will now appear in the Cup Final for the second time, and the first since 1996. They are waiting for the winner of the Vegas Golden Knights-Dallas Stars series.

NHL Vice President Brian Jennings was responsible for presenting the Prince of Wales Trophy. After some pictures, Alexander Barkov – captain of the Florida – grabbed her and budged her away. Some teams touch it. some don’t. A few Panthers did, but Barkov didn’t pass.

The Panthers gave themselves a shot at the Hurricanes with a 1-0 win in Game 3 on Monday, buoyed by a 32-save shutout from Sergey Bobrovsky. Florida’s goaltending was stellar again on Wednesday with 36 saves. Fredrik Andersen stopped 21 shots at the other end to give Carolina a chance to extend the series.

It’s amazing, – said Bobrovsky. “We showed flexibility…and we’re lucky to have Xucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”

Florida was in control early in Game 4, taking a 1-0 lead just 41 seconds into the first period when Anthony Duclair slid past Andersen’s puck in a mad scramble against Carolina’s net.

That was just the beginning of the hurricane’s nightmare stretch.

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Immediately after Duclair scored, Panthers forward Sam Bennett checked Carolina defender Jacob Slavin when he played the ball behind his own net. Slavin hit his head on the boards and was later ruled out with an upper body injury.

Tkachuk gave Florida a 2–0 advantage on power play when Sebastian Ahu went into the box for a tackle, the first time—in nearly 14 periods of play up to that point—the team had a two-goal lead in the series. Every bit of action came with a tie or one-by-one in the first 272 minutes (including all overtime) of the series.

The Hurricanes, needing a push, got one when Paul Stastny shoved a puck under the stretched Bobrovsky. It was the first goal scored by the Carolina forward against Florida and stopped Bobrovsky’s save streak—going back to Game 2—at 72.

Florida took a 2-1 lead in the second half, but Carolina didn’t waste time evening the score when Teivo Tervainen scored their first playoff goal in the middle minute.

The Panthers regained the lead with a goal by Ryan Lomberg who played tic-tac-toe from fourth line teammates Mark Staal and Colin White. Florida took a 3-2 advantage in the third period and defended it against a desperate Carolina team trying to keep their season alive.

While looking for the tying goal, Carolina had an important opportunity on a power play midway into the third that led to four shots on Bobrovsky but no score. It wasn’t until late in the third period, with less than 4 minutes to play, that Jesper Fast resolved Bobrovsky again with a fast forward shot to tie the score at 3.

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And Carolina captain Jordan Staal gave Florida a late blocking call and a power play opportunity with 57 seconds left in regulation. Tkachuk beat Andersen by 4.9 seconds on the clock. Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour challenged play due to goalie interference, but Tkachuk’s goal held up to punch Florida’s ticket to the Cup final.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.