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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Florida Panthers On Brink of Elimination, Vow This Ain’t Over

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The Florida Panthers mix it up with the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — Moments after the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Saturday night, the DJ at FLA Live Arena cued up a song the team needs to adopt to if they want their season to continue.

As Vegas celebrated their win, the Tom Petty classic I Won’t Back Down blared throughout the arena.

The Panthers now have their backs up against the wall and, if they want to keep things going, they simply cannot back down.

“Just go out there, win one game and force them to come back to Florida,’’ said a banged up Matthew Tkachuk, whose assumed shoulder injury kept him off the ice for much of the third period.

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“That’s pretty much the message in this room. Same thing (against) Boston: We just wanted to get back to Florida then and we’re going to do the same thing now.”

Yes, the Panthers talked a lot about the first-round win against the Bruins.

Florida lost Game 4 of the opening-round series and then went to Boston down 3-1 — getting a Tkachuk goal in overtime to win that game and extend the season.

Now, here we are.

On Saturday night, the Panthers fell down 3-0 before Brandon Montour scored the most unusual goals in the second with Sasha Barkov scoring in the second to make this a game.

Only there was no comeback in the cards for the Panthers this night as, despite having a 6-on-4 power play with Sergei Bobrovsky on the bench in the final seconds, Vegas held on to win.

Now, the series turns back to Las Vegas where the Stanley Cup will be in the building ready to hand over the Golden Knights.

“The confidence is there,’’ Brandon Montour said. “It’s nice that obviously we (came back)  before so the belief has got to be there. That’s the only way out of this. Obviously, we’re in a hole but I like our chances to get back. We’ve got a fight in this group and guys are desperate to win these next ones.”

The Panthers have been underdogs for much of the past few months and say they are ready to fight to keep this thing rolling.

But unlike their comeback in Boston, Vegas knows this is not some first-round playoff series. The Knights know what is at stake come Tuesday.

Vegas also does not take the Panthers lightly and want nothing more than to win Game 5 and not come back to South Florida until sometime next season.

“We revisit all of the adversity that we faced: Injured players, Barkov and Bennett out of our lineup, and we found a way at a critical time to make the playoffs,’’ coach Paul Maurice said.

“We’ll tell stories over the next two days for sure, reminders of the energy level we brought into Game 5 in Boston, and we’ll celebrate it. We’ll celebrate before the puck drops. (Boston) seems like a lifetime ago. Because you have that inner faith, and you’ve also invested so very much, there’s a feeling of earned success, you’ve earned the right.

“So I would say this: I believe fully you’ve earned the right to play our best hockey in a difficult situation. All we want to do is get this thing back here. It’s not the series, it’s not … just get this thing back home and give our fans another look at us.”

For the Panthers, desperation time is setting in.

But they have one more game — at least — to play.

We shall see.

“Yeah, you got to win four,’’ Barkov said. “So it’s 3-1 and they are one win away and we are three wins away.

“But all we can do is think about one, one game and bringing it back to Florida. That’s our goal. That’s what we want to do in Vegas, go there and try to win that game.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 
GAME 5 (Vegas leads 3-1)

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