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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Daunting Task Ahead For Florida Panthers? Win ‘Three Game 7s’

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Matthew Tkachuk celebrates his second period goal in the Florida Panthers’ 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 4 on Sunday in Sunrise. // Photo courtesy Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are no strangers to digging themselves into a hole this season only this time, it could mean the end of their season.

Florida will fly to Boston on Tuesday afternoon for what could be its final game of the season.

The Bruins hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 opening-round series.

Florida now needs to win the final three games against the Bruins or its season is over.

“The series is not over,” Josh Mahura said. “We’re going to get on the plane and look to get a win in Game 5. … We have kind of had our backs against the wall for the last few months coming into this. We have a style of play that has been successful.

“We have three Game 7s coming up and we’re just focused on Game 5 right now. The most important thing is to get on the plane, get in and go one game at a time. It is not the easiest situation to be in and we’re not out of it. It’s the first team to four.”

Coach Paul Maurice said while his team is in a precarious situation against a Boston team which set the NHL record for most wins and points this season, perhaps the desperation will loosen them up.

Winning in Boston, obviously, will not come easy.

While Florida did win Game 2 in Boston last Wednesday, it has been outscored 15-11 in the series and lost both of its games on home ice.

Of course, a win Wednesday means the Panthers will get at least one more game in Sunrise.

“There is a certain freedom and focus that comes when you are in an elimination game,’’ Maurice said. “You have to win and you push as hard as you can. The cliche is ‘there’s no tomorrow’ and that helps you build the mindset going to the rink especially when you have invested as much as this group has to get there.”

Coming all the way back from a 3-1 deficit is rare but it is not uncommon — and it has happened a few times recently.

Last year, for instance, the Rangers came back from down 3-1 to the Penguins and ended up in the Eastern Conference finals. Montreal also beat Toronto in 2021.

Since 2010, a total of 10 NHL teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to advance.

The Panthers would like to join the club.

“I don’t think there is any more pressure in the game. We know it is a must-win situation and a chance for us to give it everything we have got,” Sam Bennett said. “You don’t hold back, you don’t save anything. We just need to do everything we can to come out of there with a win.”

EKBLAD, DUCLAIR SKATE

The Panthers had a very light practice on Monday at the arena but two players who did not play in Game 4 took part.

According to Maurice, Anthony Duclair was a late scratch after he tweaked something during warmups. He was replaced in the third line by Zac Dalpe.

Aaron Ekblad also missed Game 4 after taking a high hit in the second period on Friday night. Ekblad returned to that game for two shifts but did not play in the third.

Matthew Tkachuk got hit with a $5,000 fine on Monday for cross-checking Boston’s Garnet Hathaway at the end of the first period on Sunday.

Tkachuk got hit with a two-minute penalty for his infraction which led to Boston’s second goal of the game.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 5 (Boston Leads 3-1)

 

 

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