When the Florida Panthers finished off the Boston Bruins on Friday night to force a decisive Game 7 in their first-round playoff series, much of the spotlight hit the likes of Matthew Tkachuk and Sasha Barkov.
For good reason, too.
But the Panthers needed more than just their superstars to come back in this series, to force a winner-plays-on game Sunday night in Boston.
It, as coach Paul Maurice, took a complete team effort — from the captain of the Panthers, sure, all the way to their video coach.
This win took a village. The playoffs take everyone.
“To get to a Game 7 against that team, you have to have all 20 playing at their peak,” Maurice said. “You get the Dalpe, Luostarinen booster there and (Anton) Lundell was so good. It’s going to take a puck getting to the net — I don’t think they’ll be a coast-to-coast game.”
Here are some of the unsung heroes who helped lead the Panthers into today’s winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston:
The captain of the AHL Charlotte Checkers has missed, to date, the entirety of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs due to his promotion to the Panthers prior to Game 1.
While Dalpe did not play in the first few games against the Bruins, he stepped into the lineup in Game 4 when Anthony Duclair got hurt during warmups.
With Ryan Lomberg out indefinitely with a hand injury, Dalpe appears to be part of things moving forward — especially after he scored a game-tying goal in the third period of Game 6 to make it 4-4.
It was Dalpe’s first NHL postseason goal.
“I think I have been the ‘next man up’ my whole career so I know how to handle it,” he said afterward. “Scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs is something you dream of as a kid. My kids will probably enjoy that one, for sure. It was a good payoff, I like to think I work hard when no one is watching. Then you get onto the big stage and hopefully you get a shot on next and it goes in. It did.
“Things happened pretty quick there. At this time of year, you need all 20 guys and that’s what we got.”
The 25-year-old forward picked up a bouncing puck off of a pass breakup from Brandon Montour and skated the puck right to the top of the left face-off circle, firing off a wicked wrist shot.
With 5:38 to go in regulation, Luostarinen just beat Linus Ullmark above his blocker and gave the Panthers a lead they held onto to force a Game 7.
“I think that was the biggest goal of my career so far,” Luostarinen said.
John Congemi, Myles Fee
The Panthers held the lead on the Bruins going into the third period on Friday night — although that was almost not the case. With 8:18 left in the second, Brandon Carlo scored to tie the score.
Only Florida’s video coach noticed that prior to the goal, Jake DeBrusk brushed the puck with his hand in moving it to Patrice Bergeron with a hand pass.
Congemi and assistant coach Myles Fee alerted the Florida bench and Maurice challenged the goal.
While slight, DeBrusk did touch the puck — and the goal was taken off the board.
Big save there.
“That was John Congemi,” Maurice said. “We got the call that it was a handpass and it’s tight, right? He caught that. That’s the game, right? Zac Dalpe gets a goal, Luosty gets a huge goal. Those are some names that don’t get talked about much — John Congemi, Myles Fee back in the video room — but what an impact they make. I did not have that on the bench.”
If you recognize Congemi’s name, well, you probably know your football.
Congemi’s father John was a standout at St. Thomas Aquinas and was quarterback at Pitt right after Dan Marino left for the Dolphins.
He ended his Pitt career ranked second in passing to No. 13 and had a long playing career in the CFL following college. He has been doing local and national sports television for years.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 7 (Series Tied 3-3)
- When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Boston Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: @Boston 3, Florida 1; Game 2: Florida 6, @Boston 3; Game 3: Boston 4, @Florida 2; Game 4: Boston 6, @Florida 2; Game 5: Florida 4, @Boston 3 (OT); Game 6: @Florida 7, Boston 5; Game 7: at Boston, Sunday, 6:30 (BSF, TNT).
- Up Next: Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- Regular Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last Season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)