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Florida Panthers Upset with Loss in Carolina? Nope

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Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov makes a save on Sam Reinhart during the third period of an eventual 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers in Raleigh on Thursday night. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

On Thursday night, the Florida Panthers got a taste of their own medicine in an Eastern Conference finals rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Sergei Bobrovsky was again dominant, as he had been in that series. 

Pyotr Kochetkov was even better as the Hurricanes walked off with a 1-0 victory via a Sebastian Aho goal with 18.9 seconds remaining.

Kochetkov’s 44-save performance made the difference.

“That’s a playoff game, no doubt about it,” Aaron Ekblad said. “Two teams collided that play almost the exact same way.

“There was almost no room out there for anybody, and I don’t know what the chances were, but they had to be pretty damn close, so it was a hard-fought game and we would’ve liked to be on the other side of it.”

Both teams did not give each other an inch, with the final tally on high-danger chances in this game being 13-11.

Only the game became an uphill battle for the Panthers early.

Top defenseman Gus Forsling and playoff hero Matthew Tkachuk left the game with injuries in the first period and did not return.

Coach Paul Maurice said both players would be considered “day-to-day’’ and will be evaluated today in South Florida.

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With the Panthers taking Friday off, there may not be an update on either until Saturday’s morning skate in Fort Lauderdale.

On Thursday, however, Florida had multiple close calls to scoring — including an Eetu Luostarinen goal taken off the board after an offside challenge with 3:18 to go — but could not cash in.

An Ekblad shot that just clipped the inside of the post with 56 seconds to go could have completely flipped the script, and the Panthers’ two long winning streaks would have continued. 

Alas, the Panthers saw their six-game winning streak end and lost their first road game since Dec. 18, with their historic road winning streak falling just short of the NHL record of 12-straight.

“I liked our game, I liked it an awful lot,” Maurice said.

“It’s one thing to go into a game with a lineup missing a couple of guys, but it’s another thing to lose them in the game. We didn’t have the bodies to fill, but we put 44 [shots] on them. 

“God, both goaltenders were good, and it was a good road game for us.”

Tkachuk’s absence, in particular, forced the Panthers to get creative with their forward line combinations.

Even more so when Nick Cousins briefly needed repairs after taking a high stick to the mouth, which left him bloodied.

Regardless, the Panthers held their own down the stretch and matched the Hurricanes 7-7 in scoring chances in the third after Carolina had a 14-5 edge in the second.

“I can move some people around here, and [Anton] Lundell can move from center to wing real quick,” Maurice said.

“That’s going to happen again. You get in these games, you get in the playoffs, you lose a guy, and you have to make adjustments. So you learn a lot about your team. I liked our bench, and I liked the way we handled it.”

Florida’s power play, meanwhile, did not get much going without Tkachuk.

On the big four-minute power play granted to them from Cousins’ bloodied mouth, the Panthers couldn’t get one past Kochetkov on six shots and scoring chances.

“Four-minute power play, we have to get something going,” Sasha Barkov said. “Obviously, that’s not the way we want to do that.”

But the Panthers are not upset with the way they played on the power play or overall.

“I don’t feel like the game was won or lost on that and I don’t even feel that the game was lost,” Maurice said. “The score is the score, they win. But I don’t walk away from this game feeling dejected or disappointed with what we did.

“The power play? They didn’t score, we didn’t score, so it’s a 5-on-5 game. We didn’t score on our best chances and I don’t know if they scored on their best chances. It’s a good game.”

ON DECK

WASHINGTON CAPITALS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • This Season (Florida Leads 2-0) — At Washington: Panthers 4, Capitals 3 OT (Nov. 8). At Florida: Panthers 4, Capitals 2 (Feb. 8); Saturday. 
  • Last Season: Panthers won 3-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Washington leads 67-47-13, 9 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.

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