The Panthers needed only one overtime instead of five for Matthew Tkachuk to give Florida a 2-0 lead over the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After needing 139 minutes, 37 seconds of game time, four overtimes, and five hours, 34 minutes of real-time to show up to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Matthew Tkachuk only needed a fraction of that in Game 2. The Florida Panthers winger scored his second consecutive overtime winner, propelling his team to a 2-1 victory at the Carolina Hurricanes and a commanding 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Sunrise, Florida, on Monday.
After failing to score on their first five power plays of the series, including two in regulation, Florida made the sixth count. One minute and 39 seconds into overtime, Carolina forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was boxed for hooking Florida defenseman Josh Mahura, putting the Panthers on the man advantage.
A dozen seconds later, Tkachuk took advantage of Carolina defenseman Jacob Slavin and Brett Burnes, incidentally taking each other out of the play in the corner. Then, he capitalized on a 2-on-0 in the slot after a feed from Sam Bennett, where Sam Reinhardt slid the puck from left to right before Tkachuk roofed it over Anti Raanta for the tie-breaking tally.
Then as he did in Game 1, in what he called “Bus in 10” fashion, Tkachuk pointed to the rink exit and led his Panthers off the ice and into a jubilant visitor’s locker room.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: 3 takeaways from Panthers second OT win over Hurricanes
3. Sergei Bobrovsky wins goaltender duel for Panthers
Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour put Antti Raanta, who stopped 24 of 26 shots and finished with a +0.85 Goals Saved Above Expected, between the pipes. It came after starting netminder Frederik Andersen played all seven periods of Game 1, where he stopped 60 of 63 shots and finished with a +1.41 Goals Saved Above Expected. “You have to. The guy played the whole game,” Brind’Amour told ESPN when asked about the move. It was Raanta’s first game since April 25, when he took the loss in game five of the first round against the New York Islanders.
Meanwhile, Florida bench boss Paul Maurice stuck with Sergei Bobrovsky, who has handled the starters net since game five of the first round against the top-seeded Boston Bruins, where he helped anchor a comeback for the ages. Trailing 3-1 in the series against the Bruins, who set the benchmark for wins(65) and points (135) in the regular season, not to mention the 43-point gap between the teams, nobody would’ve blamed Florida for succumbing to their greatness.
After all, if not for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ collapse down the stretch, they wouldn’t even be in the dance despite their scalding play which saw them go 12-5-2 since the March 3 trade deadline, enough to squeak into the playoffs by a single point. But they qualified, pulled off arguably the greatest upset in NHL history in the first round, and haven’t looked back.
They deserve to be in this position. Two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1996. Bobrovsky has been a primary reason for the team’s resurgence.
After he backstopped his team to the second round with three straight wins, he effectively sent the Toronto Maple Leafs into turmoil(As they fired GM Kyle Dubas on Friday) with 50 saves on 52 shots in game five before Nick Cousins scored in overtime to clinch the series.
Then, the 34-year-old set a Panthers record for most saves in a playoff tilt with 63 on 65 shots in the Game 1 marathon and made 37 saves on 38 shots on Saturday for his ninth win in ten games. He’s successfully stopped 78 of the past 79 shots he’s faced and 100 of 103 in the series thus far.
He’s been as unbeatable as it gets in these playoffs, and if this continues, it may not matter what adjustments the Hurricanes make or how many times they fire rubber at the Florida cage.
According to moneypuck.com, Carolina should’ve won Game 2 4-2 and the opener 3-1; instead, Florida has won back-back overtime tilts and have a stranglehold on this series.
“Tonight, we played pretty well,” Brind’Amour said. “These are tough when you’re right there, and the margins are paper thin. We haven’t gotten a bounce and probably need one.” “It’s tough when it’s right there, and you felt like you should’ve had it.”
Down in the series, the Hurricanes sent everything and anything Bobrovsky’s way. They sent a raucous crowd into a frenzy when Jalen Chatfield redirected his first career playoff goal 1:43 into the contest.
After Bobrovsky steered Stefan Noesen’s shot from the right side the opposite way, Sebastian Aho picked it up and fed Chatfield in front for the icebreaker. The momentum the Hurricanes needed after their devastating Game 1 defeat appeared short-lived when Gustav Forsling scored from the point.
However, Brind’Amour successfully challenged it for offsides and preserved Carolina’s lead. Armed with the hold, a delighted crowd, and momentum, the Hurricanes dominated the run of play. They outskated, outsmarted, and overpowered the Panthers through their suffocating forecheck and relentless puck pressure.
It was a Storm Surge of epic proportions. Not even a Florida power play could stop it, as they were forced into several turnovers and were outshot 6-0 despite receiving the man advantage when Shayne Gostisbehere flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at the 3:39 mark of the first period.
Carolina recorded 17 of the game’s first 18 shots on goal. They were outshooting Florida 20-4 with 4:05 remaining in the opening stanza before Jack Drury received Mackenzie MacEachern’s drop pass, skated to the slot, and beat Bobrovsky momentarily, doubling the Hurricanes’ lead. Yes, even the tiny lineup change where Brind’Amour scratched veteran center Derek Stepan for the 29-year-old left-winger and offseason acquisition seemed to be paying off with that assist.
However, akin to Forsling’s tally, this was also waived off due to a teammate being offsides, keeping it 1-0. Florida would outshoot the Canes 7-0 over the period’s final few minutes, but it was too little too late. The Panthers skated into the first intermission as the inferior squad with a superior goaltender.
“We didn’t think we were that bad,” Tkachuk told TNT after the game. “But I guess when you have Bob back there, It’s like a safety blanket to make up for all our mistakes early on.”