SUNRISE — After a successful two-win road trip in Raleigh, N.C, the Florida Panthers returned home to FLA Live Arena for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In their first home game in 12 days, the Panthers won another extremely close game, defeating the Hurricanes 1-0.
Florida now holds a 3-0 series lead, and are just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
The opening set of games in Raleigh showed how tight this series would be played, and with the two matches going to OT, you could expect this one to be just as close.
The opening 20 minutes of the contest was a continuation of that — the two sides went into the intermission scoreless.
Towards the end of the first, Panthers captain Sasha Barkov left the game with a lower body injury.
Barkov did not return to the game after Panthers PR announced he was questionable to return midway through the second. Eetu Luostarinen replaced Barkov on the top line.
Panthers’ Head Coach Paul Maurice did not have an update on Barkov’s injury or status post game.
This lockdown defensive type of series makes it hard for either team to really get a jump on the other. As the second period rolled on, the score was still 0-0.
It wasn’t until the halfway mark of the game where someone would light the lamp on this scoreless affair. Florida’s Sam Reinhart would be the one to break the deadlock.
With the Cats on their second power play of the night, Florida capitalized on the man-advantage for the second straight game.
Florida went to work down low – where the majority of their postseason power play success has stemmed from. Sam Bennett fed Matthew Tkachuk from behind the net, then Tkachuk quickly hit Reinhart in front of goal. From the bumper position, Reinhart quickly spun a shot past Frederik Andersen’s blocker — giving Florida a 1-0 lead just eight seconds into the powerplay .
“I was just trying to find a soft area in the middle and (Tkachuk) showed some great poise to be able to wait for it to open up,” Reinhart when explaining the power play goal setup.
Reinhart’s goal would be the only one of the period. Florida took a one-goal lead into the second intermission.
Trailing 1-0 in the game and 2-0 in the series, necessary desperation kicked in for the Hurricanes as they took the ice for the final period of regulation.
Carolina came out of the break rolling, as they’ve done time and time again this series. However on the flip side, Sergei Bobrovsky and the Panthers weathered the storm of the Hurricanes’ attack in the final 20.
The Canes outshot Florida 11-2 in the third, and 32-17 in the game. Their frantic pressure was met by the thorn in their side all series, Bobrovsky.
Florida’s goalie stopped all 32 shots he faced in his first shutout of the postseason. Bobrovsky has saved 182 shots in his last four starts, only conceding five goals over that span.
“It seems like every day he’s making another huge save, changing momentum and helping the team win games,” Carter Verhaeghe said about Bobrovsky postgame. “He’s our backbone, he’s our best player.”
The Panthers have a chance to sweep the Hurricanes on Wednesday, May 24 — which would punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
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