Connect with us

2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

‘He’s a XXX Gamer’: Big Goal From Tkachuk leads Panthers Over Bruins

Published

on

Panthers bruins tkachuk
Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark is on the ice as Matthew Tkachuk skates past while scoring the game-winning goal during overtime of Game 5 on Wednesday night in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Florida Panthers traded for Matthew Tkachuk for a reason: He shows up in big moments. If they did not know so before, the Boston Bruins do now.

Tkachuk delivered his first really big postseason moment in a Florida sweater at a time when his team absolutely needed it the most.

The Panthers were on the verge of elimination and Tkachuk helped extend it with an overtime goal in a 4-3 win over the Bruins.

Florida will play at least one more game this season.

“That guy is a — and then you put a long string of profanity — gamer,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Is he not a gamer?

“I got to see him a lot in Calgary when I was in Winnipeg and it drove me crazy how he could just, out of nowhere, pull a puck across. What, are there 700 guys in the league? Maybe 640 jam that thing as fast as they can and lose it. He just pulls it across. He’s just a … gamer.

“Use your own words. Use Xs.’’

OK.

For the Best and Most Complete

Daily Coverage of the Florida Panthers

Get a Subscription to Florida Hockey Now, Today!

All season long, Maurice has raved about Tkachuk’s silky smooth hands especially around the net.

They were on full display in that overtime sequence as Tkachuk did not rush a shot at what was an empty net. Instead, he made sure he had the shot he wanted.

At 6:05 of overtime, Tkachuk picked up an errant rebound of a Carter Verhaeghe shot which bounced off goalie Linus Ullmark who was way out of his net.

Tkachuk got the puck, weaved through a bit of traffic and backhanded a shot which kept his team alive.

That goal forced a Game 6 in Sunrise on Friday night. Boston still leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 but the Panthers continue to play on.

”We were supposed to get swept in this series, right?” Tkachuk said. “I don’t think anyone was giving us a chance after losing two games in a row at home. Coming here in a backs-against-the-wall type game, it just seemed like the series was over before the game even started.

“For us, to come up with the start we did, it speaks a lot about our team, our preparation and our belief in each other.

“It just comes down to that we don’t want our season to end. Now they’re coming down to Florida and we know that there can’t possible be a Game 7 in their mind, so it’s just up to us to see you guys back here in a few days.”

After Florida dropped two games in a row in Sunrise, its chances of getting back into the series seemed bleak.

And it looked even darker when captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the Bruins lineup from an upper-body injury which caused him to miss the first four games of the series.

But the Panthers’ stars — namely Tkachuk and Verhaeghe — answered the bell.

Verhaeghe drove play for much of the first two periods, starting the scoring off by sending a floater to the slot for Anthony Duclair to bat in to put Florida ahead 8:26 into the second period.

After Brad Marchand tied the game for Boston early in the second, Verhaeghe set up Sam Bennett with time winding down in the second period.

Bennett fired the puck top shelf with 1:08 to go to give Florida the lead going into the third period.

That assist pushed Verhaeghe over 1996 Cup-run hero Ray Sheppard for third in Panthers history in postseason points.

Verhaeghe has 20 points in 21 career playoff games and is one point shy of tying Jonathan Huberdeau for the No. 2 spot in franchise history.

“He is one of the fastest players in the league,” Bennett said. “When he is skating, he is so dangerous.”

Bergeron — as expected — made his presence shown in the third period, deflecting a Marchand shot on the power play 4:33 into the frame to tie the game at 2.

Tkachuk came up with the answer less than a minute later, feeding Sam Reinhart with a cross-ice pass to give Florida its second power play goal of the series — and the lead.

The Panthers were not able to hold it as Taylor got his fifth of the series with 9:16 to go — but after some heroics from Sergei Bobrovsky, they were able to force overtime.

And, again, it was Verhaeghe and Tkachuk who came up big for Florida.

With Ullmark down and out of his net, Verhaeghe threw a puck on net and it took a wacky bounce over to Tkachuk.

Once the puck was on Tkachuk’s stick, everyone in the building knew it was game over.

Gamer, right?

“He has been huge all year,” Reinhart said. “It was no shock.’’

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 6 (Boston Leads 3-2)

Get FHN+ today!