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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

‘Legacy Win’: Florida Panthers Stun NHL Record-Setting Bruins

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Matthew Tkachuk celebrates in front of Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman after Carter Verhaeghe scored in overtime to lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Paul Maurice has had a case of the sniffles throughout the first-round playoff series between his Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins.

The watery eyes and little bit of a runny nose he exhibited following his team’s stunning 4-3 overtime win in Game 7 were not allergies.

Maurice appeared to be doing his best to hold in his emotions.

He succeeded although it was close.

“I was proud to be associated with them,’’ Maurice said. “I’m watching these guys fight and scratch and claw. I’m not hanging over the bench screaming at them or telling them what to do. Everybody’s got a job here. Basically, at the end of the day, I open the door and close the door on the lines. Who’s going. Other than that, proud to be associated with them.”

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The Panthers put their fans — and coaches — through the emotional wringer in this series.

Down 3-1 to the Bruins after going 0-2 at home, Florida won Game 5 in overtime on Wednesday then had to rally twice in the third period to take Game 6 on Friday night in Sunrise.

In the decisive Game 7, the Panthers led 2-1 going into the third but the Bruins scored twice early in the period to set the Garden aflame.

It certainly looked like the Bruins were going to extend their record-setting season and stay after their goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston — but then the ‘Comeback Cats’ struck again.

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“We took timeout with 2 minutes left and I thought ‘we better get one’,’’ Matthew Tkachuk said.

Brandon Montour, who gave Florida the initial lead in the first, drilled a loose puck past goalie Jeremy Swayman with 59.3 seconds remaining in regulation forcing the extra period.

Both teams traded punches on the offensive side of the ice in overtime before Carter Verhaeghe ended it 8:35 in.

The Panthers did not “go home, baby!” as Steve Goldstein exclaimed, but will be going to Toronto.

The team changed its flight plans soon afterward their win and will fly to Toronto this morning for a second-round series which starts Tuesday against the Maple Leafs.

They cannot revel in this win too long.

“There are a couple of guys who are speechless right now,” Montour said. “They have a heck of a group (in Boston) and kudos to them on their season. We just move on to the next. Enjoy this, go to Toronto.”

The Panthers accomplished a number of feats on Sunday night although the most important one was keeping their season rolling.

A team without much Game 7 experience did not panic when down although they seemed pretty casual about it until a frantic push in the final minutes of regulation.

With the win, the Panthers became the first team to pull the 8-1 upset in the Stanley Cup playoffs since Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets swept the Lightning in 2019.

The Panthers also match last year’s New York Rangers for rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win.

Florida ended up winning three of four playoff games played in Boston; the Bruins had only lost seven games — three which came in 3-on-3 overtime or the shootout — on home ice during the regular season.

This was, by any measure one grades things, as big a win as there has been in franchise history — perhaps their only other Game 7 win in Pittsburg to move on to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final properly compares.

And now, they get to keep this train rolling.

“I don’t think they fully appreciate, maybe we don’t, the challenges of beating a team like (Boston) in a seven-game series,’’ Maurice said. “Anybody can win a game, which was part of it. You get it to one game. Can we get it to one game? But seven games and come out ahead? It’ll sink in over time.

“I truly think, actually, you won’t think much about it. Start on Toronto video tomorrow and get to work. Then some years go by and you look back at it and say ‘that was pretty special’.”

The NHL world may have been salivating over the probabilities of a Toronto-Boston series, but the Panthers wrecked those plans.

Goldstein did say the Panthers “shocked the world’’ after Verhaeghe’s goal.

Deal with it.

Boston has to.

“It really is the biggest upset in NHL history,” Tkachuk said, “to every single person other than the guys in that room. We knew we weren’t the favorites against a 65-win team, but it was an unbelievable effort. Down 3-2, tie it late, overtime winner.

“It’s one of those legacy wins for a bunch of guys on our team and for our franchise. We just did what no one else in the world thought we could do. That’s pretty exciting.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 1

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