NHL

Tkachuk scores in OT again to give Panthers 2-0 lead in East final

By Sports Desk May 21, 2023

Matthew Tkachuk played the role of hero again, scoring 1:51 into overtime to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final.

Less than two days after scoring the winner in an epic four-overtime thriller, Tkachuk roofed a feed from Sam Reinhart past Antti Raanta on the power play for his third OT goal in the playoffs.

Aleksander Barkov had a highlight-reel goal for Florida, which heads home for Game 3 on Monday having swept both games in Carolina.

The Panthers are halfway to reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996, which also marks their last appearance in the East final.

The eighth-seeded Panthers won their eighth straight road game in the playoffs and remained perfect in six overtime games this postseason.

Jalen Chatfield scored Carolina's only goal early in the first period. The Hurricanes had won their first three overtime games this postseason before dropping two straight in this series.

While Sergei Bobrovsky continued his stellar playoffs with 37 saves and improved to 9-2, Carolina decided to switch to Raanta in net after Frederik Andersen's heavy workload in Game 1. Raanta, who started the first five games of the postseason, stopped 24 of 26 shots.

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    Sam Reinhart and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and an assist and the Florida Panthers held on for a 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers to take a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Vladimir Tarasenko and Sam Bennett also scored for the Panthers, who can wrap up the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in Game 4 in Edmonton on Saturday night.

    Florida carried a 4-1 lead into the third period, but Philip Broberg scored at 6:02 and Ryan McLeod made it a one-goal game with 5:17 remaining.

    The Oilers, however, could not beat Sergei Bobrovsky again and now face the daunting task of trying to win four straight games to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993 – months before the Panthers’ inaugural season.

    Only four teams in league playoff history (1975 New York Islanders, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers and 2014 Los Angeles Kings) have won a series after losing the first three games and only once in the final (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs).

    Bobrovsky finished with 32 saves to win his sixth straight start. He allowed more than two goals for the first time during that span.

    The Panthers showed no ill effects from waiting to fly from South Florida to Alberta, a decision that was questioned when their plane was delayed by storms and got in a few hours late Wednesday – less than 24 hours before puck drop.

  • Panthers take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final Panthers take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

    Evan Rodrigues had two of three Florida Panthers goals in the third period as the Eastern Conference champions took a 2-0 lead on the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final with Monday's 4-1 win.

    Niko Mikkola also scored and Aaron Ekblad had a game-sealing empty-net goal in the final minutes as the Panthers moved two wins away from the franchise's first Stanley Cup title.

    They did so by keeping Connor McDavid and Edmonton's high-powered offence in check for a second straight meeting. After being dealt a 3-0 loss in Saturday's opener of the best-of-seven series, the Oilers managed just seven shots on goal over the first two periods of Game 2 and 19 for the night.

    Florida did sustain a key injury in Game 2, however, as captain and top-line centre Aleksandar Barkov did not return after taking an elbow to the head from Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl midway through the third period. 

    Mattias Ekholm recorded the lone goal for the Oilers, who will attempt to reverse momentum on home ice when the series shifts to Edmonton for Thursday's Game 3.

    Despite Florida owning a 22-7 shot advantage through the first two periods, the teams were locked in a 1-1 tie until Rodrigues stole an attempted clearing pass from Edmonton's Evan Bouchard in the Oilers' end and whistled a shot past goaltender Stuart Skinner 3:11 into the third.

    Rodrigues struck again on the power play created by Draisaitl's roughing penalty on Barkov with 9:28 remaining, as he redirected a pass from Anton Lundell into the Edmonton net for a 3-1 Florida lead with 7:34 left.

    Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch pulled Skinner for an extra attacker with under seven minutes to go, and the move gave Edmonton essentially a two-man advantage when Florida defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson received a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck into the stands with less than five minutes remaining.

    The Panthers killed off the infraction, however, then ended any hopes of an Edmonton comeback when Ekblad scored into the vacant net with 2:28 left to play.

    Florida had the game's first prime scoring opportunity when Oilers forward Warren Foegele received a five-minute major penalty and an ejection for a knee-to-knee hit on the Panthers' Eetu Luostarinen midway through the first period.

    The Panthers couldn't capitalise, however, and the sides were soon 4-on-4 when Ekman-Larsson was called for tripping during the extended power play.

    Just 19 seconds after Ekman-Larsson was sent off, Ekholm's shot on a 2-on-1 rush evaded Florida netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to put Edmonton up 1-0 with 8:43 remaining in the opening period.

    Florida drew even midway through the second period when Mikkola fired a drop pass from Lundell past Skinner.

    Bobrovsky finished with 18 saves, while Skinner stopped 25 of 28 shots.

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    Sergei Bobrovsky continued his red-hot play with 32 saves and Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues scored to lift the Florida Panthers to a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.

    Bobrovsky was the story as the Oilers outshot the Panthers 32-17. He turned in one of the most memorable playoff goaltending performances in recent history, denying multiple breakaways and even managed to make saves without his stick for 30 seconds.

    Over his last four playoff games, the 35-year-old Bobrovsky has stopped 101 of 106 shots for a .953 save percentage.

    Three-time MVP Connor McDavid, who leads all scorers in the postseason with 31 points, led all skaters with six shots but couldn’t beat the Russian goaltender.

    Thanks to him, the Panthers have a lead in the Cup final for the first time in franchise history and are three wins away from their first championship.

    Eetu Luostarinen scored into an empty net with five seconds remaining, but that insurance goal was hardly needed the way Bobrovsky played.

    Game 2 is Tuesday in Florida.

    The goals by Verhaeghe and Rodriguez came on the first five shots against Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner, who wasn't to blame for either one.  

    The Oilers were shut out in the playoffs for the first time since June 2, 2022, against Colorado.

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