Despite going through nearly seven full periods of pressure-filled hockey, Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky still found a way to have fun.
Bobrovsky helped his Panthers pull out a win over the host Carolina Hurricanes in the sixth-longest game in NHL history as Florida won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals 3-2 in quadruple overtime in a game that started on Thursday night and ended on Friday morning.
While the game lasted 5 hours and 44 minutes, Bobrovsky was on the ice for 2:19.47 — and stopped 63 shots during that time.
His smile afterward could be seen all the way in Savannah.
“There is clearly an enjoyment there for him,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“Part of it is that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on your ‘A-Player.’ In some ways, the pressure is off because of how he has performed. He has delivered and now he can go out and play.”
Bobrovsky has put a lot of focus on the mental aspect of his game and it helped him keep himself in the game as it wore on and his equipment got heavier by the minute.
He has made it his mantra to keep himself in the moment — as it happens — and he was locked in from start to finish.
The 34-year-old made one big save after another and did not lose focus for a second.
“At that point, you don’t feel much about your body, it’s more about mental,” Bobrovsky said.
“You don’t think, your focus is completely on the game. You take one shot at a time and you don’t think about your body.”
Bobrovsky finished the game tied for the 10th-most saves in a single game in NHL history with Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Bernie Parent, and Patrick Roy.
Roy’s 63-save outing came in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final at Miami Arena.
Not only was it previously the longest game the Panthers had ever played before Thursday, but it also ended their most successful postseason run to date.
Until now, of course.
Bobrovsky also became just the third goaltender (Juuse Saros, Curtis Joseph) since the 1950s to stop more than 50 shots in back-to-back playoff games.
“He is unreal,” captain Sasha Barkov said. “Every interview I give, I talk about Bob. He is still unreal and we still love him.”
The two-time Vezina winner has been on a roll since taking over the starter’s crease from Alex Lyon to kick off Florida’s historic comeback over the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Since stopping 44 of 47 shots in a pressure-filled Game 5 overtime win at TD Garden, Bobrovsky is 8-1-0 with a .935/2.12.
And he has not allowed more than two goals in a game since the start of the second round.
Maurice turned to Bobrovsky with the Boston series on the line because he knew the pressure of that game had to be carried by his veteran goalie and not leave it on the shoulders of Alex Lyon.
With the same mindset he carries with him in every game, Bobrovsky has delivered ever since.
“I am really fortunate to be playing in these playoffs,” Bobrovsky said.
“I am happy to be here and I am very happy to be a part of this team.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1)
GAME 2 (Panthers Lead 1-0)
- When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: Florida 3, @Carolina 2; Game 2:Saturday at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Monday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Wednesday, May 24 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Friday, May 26 at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 6*:Sunday, May 28 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Tuesday, May 30 at Carolina, 8 (TNT). *If Necessary
- Season Series: (Carolina won 2-1): @Florida 3, Carolina 0 (Nov.9);@Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30); Carolina 6, @Florida 4 (April 13)
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
- How They Got Here — Carolina: d. New York Islanders in 6; d. New Jersey Devils in 5. Florida: d. Boston Bruins in 7; d. Toronto Maple Leafs in 5.