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Matthew Tkachuk: Florida Panthers ‘Are Fine. We’re Not Worried at All’



stolarz panthers
Florida Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz celebrates a win over the Buffalo Sabres with teammate Matthew Tkachuk on Feb. 15. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

SUNRISE — Matthew Tkachuk and the Florida Panthers have taken pride in their ability to lock things down on opponents, especially when holding a late lead.

In Florida’s past two losses, both the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins were able to comeback on the Panthers in the third period following go-ahead goals from Carter Verhaeghe.

On Saturday, the Rangers scored off a goal from Artemi Panarin with 3:25 remaining to tie the score at 3 and eventually force overtime.

The Rangers won in a shootout.

Tuesday, Verhaeghe scored midway through the third to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead — only to watch Boston get a power-play goal with 4:22 left, and then get the go-ahead goal from Pavel Dacha at 17:39 for a 4-3 win.

“That is two out of three where we did not close out games when we should have,” Tkachuk told FHN on Tuesday night. “We take pride in closing teams out. This can’t happen. We let this one slip away. We have to be able to close the deal there.”

Tkachuk, it should be noted, was not down in the dumps due to the Panthers loss.

He certainly was not reveling in it, but there were certainly some mitigating circumstances to those late goals as well — as he is well aware.

On the Panarin goal, the puck hit the skates of two Florida defenders in front of the net before skipping past Sergei Bobrovsky.

“We kicked it twice,’’ Paul Maurice deadpanned. “We’re going to start our own football club.’’

On the game-winner for Boston, David Pastrnak’s shot from the right circle hit Dacha’s skate as he was crashing the net and it went in.

The Panthers played a strong, tough game in both. They have won games in which they did not play as well as they did in those two losses.

Things happen.

“We played a hard, very physical game just like we will against any team in a (playoff) series,’’ Tkachuk said. “It felt like a playoff game.”

And, although there was plenty of hype surrounding Tuesday’s game as the winner took sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, when it comes to the big picture, it really was just another game.

The Bruins did take a 2-point lead on the Panthers in the race for the division title — and the top playoff seed that comes with it — but, coming into this morning, it is still just a 2-point lead.

Boston left Fort Lauderdale for Tampa where it lost 3-1 to the Lightning on Wednesday night.

That means Florida is still 2-points back — and has played two fewer games.

Florida’s schedule is a lot easier when it comes to quality of opponent in its final 10 than Boston’s is in its final eight, so, the Panthers certainly have a great opportunity in front of them.

Tkachuk certainly believes that.

And why not?

Florida also gets at least one more shot at the Bruins before the NHL’s Big Dance starts with a game at Boston Garden next Saturday afternoon.

“We will be fine, we’re not worried about it at all,” he said. “(Boston) has beat us each time this year, but if we meet in the playoffs, hopefully we can win a few back. At the end of the day, we have one more against them next week and we hope to get a win there. There are a few games left before that, maybe we can get a winning streak going here.”



  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN, 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
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Series Tied 1-1) — At Florida: Islanders 4, Panthers 3 (Dec. 2); Thursday. At Islanders: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 OT (Jan 27).
  • All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 57-33-11, 8 ties
  • Next Up for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Detroit, 12:30 p.m.

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