After playing until almost 2 a.m. in the series opener, there were questions at to how much both the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes would have left in the tank for Game 2.
Turns out, enough to do that overtime thing. Again.
It certainly did not go as long.
And now the Panthers are two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Florida continued its winning ways away from Sunrise as Matthew Tkachuk again scored in overtime — less than 2 minutes in, this time — to beat the host Hurricanes 2-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Panthers have now won eight straight road games — second all-time in NHL playoff history — as they come home to Sunrise with a commanding lead for the second consecutive series.
They are also 6-0 in overtime games with five of those wins coming on the road including both games in Raleigh.
Florida got a second-period goal from Sasha Barkov as Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves in his seventh consecutive road win.
Bobrovsky has now given up two goals or fewer in seven straight games and, dating to Game 1, has stopped 80 of his past 81 shots.
After being outshot 36-22 through regulation, the Panthers caught a break when Jesperi Kotkaniemi got called for tripping 1:39 into OT.
Moments later, Barkov got the puck in the corner and, as two Carolina defenders stumbled to the ice, fed it to Sam Bennett.
Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Tkachuk played a little tic-tac-toe with Tkachuk going top shelf to win it — and now the Panthers are two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final with five games left in this series.
Carolina came out flying taking a 1-0 lead on a Jalen Chatfield redirection 1:43 into the game on the Hurricanes’ first shot of the game.
Florida appeared to tie the score a minute later on a Gus Forsling shot through traffic, but it was first of two goals to be called back for offside via video review in the period.
At 15:56, Jack Drury’s goal was taken off the board due to a successful Florida challenge.
That goal would have made it 2-0 as Florida was being outshot 21-4 at the time.
Carolina, which got 6 of its 20 first-period shots on a Florida power play, threw everything it had at Bobrovsky and the Panthers yet only held a 1-0 lead going into the second.
The Panthers were much, much better at the end of the first and that carried into the second.
Not long after coming out of the penalty box for holding, Barkov took a feed from Josh Mahura and scored as sweet a goal as one will get to see in the postseason.
Barkov was somehow all alone in front of the net and showed the patience to get goalie Antti Raanta to commit as he pulled off a fake between the skates move and calmly backhanded the puck above his downed countryman.
Wayne Gretzky, working the game in the TNT studios in Atlanta, said it was one of the best playoff goals he had ever seen.
High praise indeed.
“He does that all the time in practice, we’ve just been trying to get him to do it in a game,” coach Paul Maurice said on the TNT broadcast. “He has a heck of a shot, is an incredible player and at speed, there are very few guys who can do what he does.”
The Panthers and Hurricanes ended up tied in shots on goal in the second 8-8 which was a big improvement over the first.
Raanta, meanwhile, was not exactly a surprise starter for the Hurricanes as Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour had said he was thinking about making a switch in goal during his media availability on Friday.
During the first period, Brind’Amour said the move was made simply because of how much work Frederik Andersen carried on Thursday night and Friday morning in Game 1 and went with his most rested goalie.
Bobrovsky did not look tired, at all, as he carried the Panthers throughout.
In the third, Bobrovsky got a little help on what could have been the game-winner for the Hurricanes.
With Radko Gudas in the box with 6:25 left, the Panthers killed the penalty — thanks in great part to Marc Staal blocking a big shot in front of the net.
Tkachuk also made a great block as Brent Burns tried to feed to a wide-open Jordan Martinook before the penalty kill.
Florida’s best chance at taking the lead in regulation came with 7:07 left when Colin White walked in on Raanta and could not get the shot off.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Carolina 1, Florida 0 (1:43, 1st): Defenseman Jalen Chatfield got his first postseason goal by redirecting a pass from Sebastian Aho past Sergei Bobrovsky. It would be the first shot on goal of many for Carolina in the opening period.
- Florida 1, Carolina 1 (7:43, 2nd): Sasha Barkov takes a pass from Josh Mahura, walks in on Antti Raanta and … I can’t do this justice. Watch the video. Heck of a goal from Barkov. A fake between the legs move with the backhand top shelf? Come on.
- Florida 2, Carolina 1 (1:51 PP, OT): Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk play a little tic-tac-goal on the power play. They’re headed home up 2-0.
GR’S 3 STARS OF GAME 2
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
2. Sasha Barkov, Florida
3. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida
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
- 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.