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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Down 3-0, Carolina Hurricanes Face Long Odds v. Florida Panthers

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Rubber rats litter the ice at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise following the Panthers’ 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 on Monday night. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — The Eastern Conference finals certainly looks like a lopsided series as the Florida Panthers are back home Wednesday night looking for a clean sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes.

But this series has been razor close with the first three games being decided by a single goal — with Florida winning Game 1 in four overtimes and the second off a Matthew Tkachuk power play goal 1:51 into OT.

It is the closest 3-0 series in history as no team has yet to hold a lead of more than a goal at any point.

The slim margin of victory for the Panthers is, of course, no solace to the Hurricanes.

Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said making big changes is not the answer.

Per NaturalStatTrick.com, the Hurricanes have outchanced Florida 109-100 and outshot the Panthers 135-113 thus far.

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”You can do little things, but you can’t do massive changes at this time of the year” Brind’Amour said Tuesday, a day after his team was beaten 1-0 by Sergei Bobrovsky and the Panthers.

“It is little tweaks here and there. You see them making little adjustments on coverage … there is that stuff going on, but it goes back to being careful in making too many changes. You can change your game from where we’re outchancing a team to things going the other way and we’re in trouble.”

The end result is they are staring down a 3-0 hole and the odds are not on their side as to climbing out of it.

Coming into Wednesday night, there have been 205 NHL playoff series — including Florida’s previous one against Toronto — in which a team held a 3-0 lead.

Panthers Optimistic Sasha Barkov Could Return for Game 4

Only four have beaten the odds and come back to win.

The 1942 Maple Leafs did it against Detroit for the Stanley Cup.

It did not happen again until 1975 when the Islanders rallied and beat the Penguins in the quarterfinals.

The other two were the 2010 Flyers over Boston (East semifinals) and 2014 Kings over San Jose in the opening round.

No NBA team has ever come back from being down 3-0 and just one team has even done it in baseball — the Red Sox over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

And, no team has ever lost the Eastern Conference finals up 3-0.

The Panthers are trying to make that 47-0 either tonight or in the coming days.

But they cannot allow themselves to start looking too far ahead. Fans are already thinking about the Stanley Cup Final being back in South Florida but the players have to have a singular focus.

“It is only natural and thoughts do cross your mind all the time,” Aaron Ekblad said. “But you have to come in and play the game. Tomorrow is just another game. You just come in and play the game, play your hardest and focus on the little details as you did before.”

As Brind’Amour notes, the Hurricanes cannot make up their three-game deficit tonight in Game 4.

The Panthers, one may remember, were down 3-1 to the Bruins in the opening round and chipped away at their deficit starting with an overtime win at Boston in Game 5.

All the Hurricanes can do now is get a win tonight and give themselves a chance by keeping the series going.

“It’s what it is. I can’t make any more of it. We have to win the game, that’s it,” Brind’Amour said. “If we don’t, it’s not because we didn’t throw our best at it, I know that.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1) AT PANTHERS (WC2) 
GAME 4 (Panthers Lead 3-0)

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