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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Off to Stanley Cup Final, Sweep Hurricanes

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SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers had the opportunity to make history Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

They did not squander it.

How could they with Jaromir Jagr back in the building?

The Panthers, a team which made the playoffs by a single point, are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for only the second time in franchise history after beating the Hurricanes 4-3 at FLA Live Arena in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Matthew Tkachuk — the hero of this postseason not named ‘Bobrovsky’ — scored with 4.9 seconds left for the game-winner.

It was his second goal of the night and third game-winning goal of this four-game sweep.

Florida, which has not been to the Cup Final since the rat-fueled 1996 campaign, will play either the Vegas Golden Knights or Dallas Stars.

Vegas goes for the Western Conference sweep on Thursday night up 3-0.

If the Knights win Game 4, the opening game of the Cup Final could be as early as next Wednesday night in Nevada.

For the Panthers, Wednesday’s win marked the first time they ever swept a postseason opponent and first time they clinched a playoff series at home since beating the Flyers in Game 6 of the semifinals at Miami Arena.

”It is hard to explain, everything happened so fast,” captain Sasha Barkov said. “To get to this point, you know how hard you need to work. You see how many great teams we beat in the playoffs so far and it has not been easy. No one said it would be easy. We know there is another big series coming up soon. We can’t get too high on this one.”

Florida got goals from Anthony Duclair, Tkachuk and Ryan Lomberg as Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 36 shots for his 11th win in his past 12 playoff starts.

The Panthers did not waste any time getting started, either.

Duclair scored the game’s first goal just 41 seconds in, jumping on a loose puck left off his own rebound to beat Frederik Andersen.

The Panthers took their first two-goal lead of the entire series at 10:23 when Tkachuk camped out in front on a power play chance and somehow corralled a shot from Aaron Ekblad, pulled it in and stuffed it between Andersen’s skates.

Carolina did not go away quietly.

Despite losing star defenseman Jaccob Slavin to an apparent concussion off a thunderous hit from Sam Bennett, the Hurricanes eventually tied the score at 2 early in the second period.

But Florida regained the lead on a turnover inside the offensive zone as Eric Staal — once captain of the Hurricanes — got the puck to Colin White as he led a 2-on-1 chance. White fed Lomberg who put it past Andersen at 9:49.

The game had its moments of shenanigans as a total of eight penalties were called between the two in the first two periods of play.

On penalty that was not called was when Tkachuk and Brent Burns got involved behind the net at the end of the first period.

Burns speared Tkachuk down low and the Florida star was slow to get up and to shake off the pain.

GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Florida 1, Carolina 0 (0:41, 1st): Anthony Duclair followed up his own rebound as goalie Frederik Andersen left a loose puck sitting for him to cash in on very early in the game. Assists: Sasha Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe.
  • Florida 2, Carolina 0 (10:23 PP, 1st): Matthew Tkachuk gets in front, pulls in a shot from Aaron Ekblad which Andersen committed to — and TKA stuffs it in between the goalie’s skates.
  • Florida 2, Carolina 1 (13:03, 1st): The Hurricanes get on the board as a Brady Skjei shot gets past Sergei Bobrovsky and Paul Stastny hops on the loose puck in the paint.
  • Carolina 2, Florida 2 (2:51, 2nd): Teuvo Teravainen gets in front of the net and ties things up.
  • Florida 3, Carolina 2 (9:49, 2nd): Ryan Lomberg officially made this the highest scoring regulation game of the series as Eric Staal gets a loose puck in the offensive zone, feeds Colin White who drives the net before dishing off to Ryan Lomberg for his first goal of these playoffs.
  • Carolina 3, Florida 3 (16:38, 3rd): Jesper Fast got in front of the net and one-timed a pass from the back boards to tie things up.
  • Florida 4, Carolina 3 (19:55, 3rd): Tkachuk, Tka-Ching. Game winner. Again.

GR’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

1. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida

3. Anthony Duclair, Florida

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

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

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