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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Florida Panthers Lift First Trophy, Want the Big One in Stanley Cup Final

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Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk walks back to his team’s locker room carrying the Prince of Wales Trophy which goes to the NHL’s Eastern Conference champion. The Panthers will play for the Stanley Cup next week. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE — Brady Tkachuk hung out with one trophy on Monday night. Two nights later, his older brother Matthew was cradling the Prince of Wales Trophy which goes to the Eastern Conference champions as his Florida Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

You can’t drink out of the Prince of Wales as Brady did with the Wanamaker along with PGA Tournament champ Brooks Koepka.

But, whatever.

Although some teams are afraid to handle the conference trophy — the Prince of Wales in the east, the Clarence Campbell in the west — Tkachuk had no problem snatching it up and posing for pictures with it.

After scoring the game-winning goal — his third game-winner in a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes — with 4.9 seconds left, let Tkachuk do what he wants.

Roberto Luongo, now an executive with the team, was one of the folks taking pictures.

Seriously, someone handed the Hall of Fame goalie their phone and had them take pictures of them, Tkachuk and the trophy.

Fun times.

“I think that we’re the type of team that the last thing we’re going to be is superstitious,” Tkachuk said afterward. “Not touching it or anything? Most people said we weren’t even going to make the playoffs, so I don’t know. I think it’s pretty cool to pick it up, carry it around, take pictures with it.

”We earned that. We definitely did not do it the easy way. We earned it. If you are blocking shots, taking hits and doing whatever it takes to win a trophy like that, you may as well enjoy it.”

The Panthers do not seem scared of much these days much less dated curses which have been debunked by other teams winning it all after handling the conference one.

Yes, the big trophy is the one every one wants and that is the one they all want to drink out of.

For years, the Panthers have talked about doing this, that and the other with the Stanley Cup in mind.

But the closest they have come to it was watching the Stanley Cup parade 3 1/2 hours north in Tampa.

The Lightning have won the Cup three times in its existence and this will be the Panthers’ second chance at bringing it this far south.

They are ready for the challenge.

”It is very hard to get to this spot so I am very proud of this group,’’ said Ryan Lomberg, who gave Florida a 3-2 lead in the second. “We’ll enjoy tonight, come in tonight. Onward.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
OR DALLAS STARS
GAME 1

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