SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers might have the Carolina Hurricanes right where they want them, but they certainly cannot let up off the gas.
Florida brought a 2-0 series lead back to FLA Live Arena and stand two wins away from clinching its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1996.
With all of the buzz surrounding them — and the Heat, which is up 3-0 in its own Eastern Conference finals — entering their first home game of the series, one would think it would be easy to let it get to their heads.
But the Panthers have made it their mission to bottle up that positivity and channel it on the ice.
For the first time in these playoffs, the Panthers come into tonight’s game a betting favorite.
“If we are going to play our asses off, why should I worry about too much positivity?” coach Paul Maurice said.
“Just go play your ass off and have fun.”
Florida has done just that throughout their improbable playoff run.
The Panthers came into the postseason using their status as an eighth-seeded underdog as motivation and had fun with that every step of the way.
And they are playing a style of game they enjoy, too.
The team continues to wear t-shirts which read ‘Lead Dog’ they broke out for Game 1 against the Bruins. In their minds, they are still the underdog.
“We just have to continue to play our game and we have to continue to pounce on them when that opportunity shows up,” Matthew Tkachuk said.
“We are in a great spot right now. We would’ve taken that and we earned it. But coming here, there is no sense of giving them life when their mindset is to try to win a game, try to get life back and make it a series.”
Said Brandon Montour: “We don’t pay attention to it. When you get this far, every team is going to hear the praise for what you’re doing but no one in this room listens to the outside world and what people are saying. We know what we’re doing, what our strengths are. As long as you’re doing stuff well, we’re still the underdog in many peoples’ eyes. We expect to be the underdog and don’t care too much about it.”
The Panthers have played the same style of game consistently throughout the playoffs and it has made it easy for them to not overthink the situation they are in.
That mentality of playing a chippy and fast style of game to a tee no matter the circumstances blossomed when they were down 3-1 to the Boston Bruins in the first round.
They are 9-1 since.
“We are not even talking about making this a series and we don’t really talk about the series in a sense,” Tkachuk said.
“We are just here to play the game. There’s no overthinking it, there’s no nerves, it’s just a lot of fun.”
Florida does not appear to be making any lineup changes for Game 3.
The starting goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky for Florida with Rod Brind’Amour bringing back Frederik Andersen after resting him in Game 2 after the marathon opener.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1) AT PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Panthers Lead 2-0)
- When: Monday, 8 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- 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
- DraftKings odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-115); Puck line (-1.5, +220); Over/Under 5.5 (-110/-110). Series: Florida favored -425.
- Series Schedule — Game 1: Florida 3, @Carolina 2; Game 2: Florida 2, @Carolina 1 (OT); Game 3: Monday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Wednesday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Friday 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.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 6 Colin White
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
34 Alex Lyon
Scratched: Mike Benning, Zac Dalpe, Evan Fitzpatrick, Givani Smith, Casey Fitzgerald, Lucas Carlsson, Connor Bunnaman, Grigori Denisenko, Patrick Giles, Mack Guzda, Aleksi Heponiemi, Matt Kiersted, Santtu Kinnunen, John Ludvig, Mackie Samsoskevich, Calle Sjalin
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion)
PROJECTED CAROLINA HURRICANES LINEUP
23 Stefan Noesen // 20 Sebastian Aho // 24 Seth Jarvis
48 Jordan Martinook // 82 Jesperi Kotkaniemi // 71 Jesper Fast
86 Teuvo Teravainen // 11 Jordan Staal // 88 Martin Necas
18 Jack Drury // 26 Paul Stastny // 21 Derek Stepan
74 Jaccob Slavin // 8 Brent Burns
76 Brady Skjei // 22 Brett Pesce
41 Shayne Gostisbehere // 5 Jalen Chatfield
31 Frederik Andersen
32 Antti Raanta