Panthers vs. Hurricanes score: Florida sweeps Carolina, heads to first Stanley Cup Final since 1996
Matthew Tkachuk scored his third game-winner of the series with 4.3 seconds left in regulation
The Florida Panthers are champions, and Matthew Tkachuk was the hero once again. His goal with 4.3 seconds left in regulation completed the sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and sent the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Panthers barely made the playoffs this season, but quickly made their presence known. Florida overcame a 3-1 deficit against the heavily favored Boston Bruins to win the series in seven games. Once they got past the Bruins, the Panthers extinguished Stanley Cup hopes in Toronto by defeating the Maple Leafs in five games in their second-round matchup.
Tkachuk has been the unquestioned leader of the Panthers throughout their playoff run, and he has turned in some brilliant performances. After two clutch goals in Game 4, Tkachuk has 21 points in 16 games, and the Hurricanes never found a way to slow him down.
Game 4: Panthers 4, Hurricanes 3
Matthew Tkachuk has done it again, and his latest act of heroism sent the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final. With just 4.3 seconds remaining in Game 4, Tkachuk scored a power play goal to deliver a 4-3 win and complete the sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
With 19:03 elapsed in the third period and the game tied 3-3, Carolina's Jordan Staal was whistled for tripping roughly 200 feet from his own goal. Just 53 seconds later, Tkachuk made him pay with a power play goal to break the tie.
That goal was Tkachuk's second of the game, and he now has nine goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games. That includes four game-winning goals, with two overtime winners in this series against the Hurricanes.
For just the second time in franchise history, the Panthers are headed to the Stanley Cup Final, and Tkachuk will have the chance to deliver even more magic on hockey's biggest stage.
While the Panthers celebrated with the Prince of Wales Trophy, the Hurricanes could only watch after suffering their fourth gut-wrenching loss of the series. Carolina may have gotten swept, but it lost each game by just a single goal. This Eastern Conference Final could've easily gone the other way at any moment.
With one conference final decided, the Panthers will await the winner of the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights out West. The Golden Knights can complete a sweep of their own in Dallas on Thursday night.
Game 1: Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2 (4OT)
The first game of the Eastern Conference Final was a thrilling way to start the series. The Florida Panthers pulled out a 3-2 win in quadruple overtime to take a 1-0 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Just a few minutes into overtime, it looked like Ryan Lomberg had won the game for Florida. He fired a shot into a wide open net, but officials ruled that Panthers forward Colin White had interfered with Frederik Andersen. After that ruling, it would be a while until the puck even sniffed the goal line.
With just 12.7 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime, Matthew Tkachuk capitalized on a Hurricanes turnover to end the sixth-longest game in NHL history. .
Game 2: Panthers 2, Hurricanes 1 (OT)
The Panthers will take a 2-0 series lead back to Florida after beating Carolina 2-1 in overtime of Game 2, with Matthew Tkachuk scoring his second game-winner in as many games. Tkachuk scored the game-winner much quicker this time around, however, doing so a mere 1:51 into the OT period after scoring in quadruple overtime on Friday. With three overtime goals this postseason, Tkachuk has now tied an NHL record.
Carolina opened the scoring with a Jalen Chatfield tip-in shot less than two minutes into the game, but the only other goal in regulation would come at 7:43 of the second period, when Aleksander Barkov scored a backhander to tie it up for Florida.
The series will now shift to Florida with the Panthers, who haven't played in a Stanley Cup Final since 1996, holding a commanding series lead.
Game 3: Panthers 1, Hurricanes 0
Sergei Bobrovsky committed grand larceny in Game 3, making 32 saves in a 1-0 shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes to move Florida within one win from the Stanley Cup Final.
Carolina generated 2.62 expected goals at five-on-five while allowing just 0.75 expected goals, but that didn't matter. Once again, Bobrovsky stood on his head and stole a win for Florida. He has been nothing short of spectacular throughout the Panthers' run, and especially of late. Over the last two games, Bobrovsky has stopped 69 of the 70 shots he has faced
Sam Reinhart provided the bare minimum with a power play goal in the second period for the Panthers. Matthew Tkachuk tallied his 19th postseason point with an assist on the play as well.
Since falling behind 3-1 in their first-round series with the Boston Bruins, the Panthers are 10-1 in their last 11 games. If they can make it 11-1 after Game 4 on Wednesday night, they will be the first team to punch its Stanley Cup Final ticket.
Highlights: Sabres at Rangers
Highlights: Golden Knights at Flames
Highlights: Panthers at Senators
Highlights: Bruins at Rangers
Highlights: Canadiens at Sabres