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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Matthew Tkachuk Comes Up Big for Florida Panthers. Again



Matthew Tkachuk passes the puck against New York’s Jimmy Vesey during the first period of Florida’s 3-0 win in Game 1 of the ECF on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

When the lights are the brightest and the stage is biggest, Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk seems to bring his game to another level.

He did it again on Wednesday night.

Tkachuk, who scored or had an assist on all four game-winning goals in Florida’s Eastern Conference championship round last year, scored in the first period Wednesday to give the Panthers the only lead they needed in Game 1 against the Rangers.

Thanks to suffocating defense and the wily play of Sergei Bobrovsky, Tkachuk’s goal was the game-wining goal in Florida’s 3-0 win over the Rangers.

The Panthers will try and take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 on Friday night.

“I think our team has come to expect it,” coach Paul Maurice said of Tkachuk. “It’s not a huge boost as in ‘Oh my God, Matthew scored a goal,’ but for him, that just gets him cookin.’’

In this postseason, Tkachuk has scored a goal in each Game 1; he also has four game-winning goals and an assist in Florida’s past five ECF wins dating to that overtime winner in four overtimes last May in Raleigh.

With two points on Wednesday, he now has 40 playoff points — becoming the third player in franchise history to hit that mark, behind Sasha Barkov (50 points) and Carter Verhaeghe (45).

Tkachuk is also the first player in NHL history with four game-winning goals in his first five conference final games.

This guy, as Maurice said last postseason, is a gamer.

“I don’t put any pressure on myself to score goals or to create offense,” Tkachuk said afterward. “I guess that’s just part of my game. At the end of the day, it’s not about me around here. There is a way bigger goal ahead. There were guys who were our best players tonight who didn’t score. It can be someone different every night. There is so much buy-in, no one cares who is doing the scoring, or the hitting; we’re here for wins, that’s it.’’

The Panthers have put together quite a playoff run on the road, something Tkachuk is certainly proud of.

Florida is 5-1 on the road this postseason with four straight victories, and are 13-2 away from Sunrise in the Eastern Conference playoffs dating to last season.

Like other great venues the Panthers have quieted, Madison Square Garden only had a few chances to get loud as the game went on.

“Coming here, in a hostile environment, playing against the best team in the league, it’s stacked up against you pretty good,” Tkachuk said. “We took that as motivation.”

The Panthers went 0-3 in the Stanley Cup Final in Las Vegas — making their road playoff record 13-5 over the past two years.

That ain’t too shabby.

“To us, it does not really matter whether it is home or road, we just want to win,” Tkachuk said. “We have to come out in Game 2 and get a win.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

Panthers lead Best-of-7 Series 1-0
  • When: Friday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
  • National TV: ESPN
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Panthers 3, Rangers 0; Game 2:Panthers at Rangers, Friday 8 (ESPN); Game 3:Rangers at Panthers, Sunday 3 (ABC); Game 4: Rangers at Panthers, Tuesday 8 (ESPN): Game 5*: Panthers at Rangers, Thursday May 30, 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: Rangers at Panthers, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Panthers at Rangers, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

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