The Florida Panthers punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final
SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are on their way to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in four games.
The Panthers took Game 4 by a final score of 4-3 off of Matthew Tkachuk’s game winner with four seconds left in regulation.
It was a wild night at FLA Live for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.
Holding a 3-0 lead, the Panthers had a chance to close out the series at home Wednesday night — which would have booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Like all the games in this series, tonight’s went down to the wire.
It didn’t take the Panthers long to crack open this game and get the crowd off their feet.
Less than a minute into the game, Frederik Andersen made a big first save on an Anthony Duclair one-timer, however Andersen lost track of the puck after the save. Duclair picked up his own rebound and put it past Andersen, putting the Panthers up 1-0 just 41 seconds into the game.
A little over halfway through the first, the Panthers would take a two-goal.
As the Panthers second power play of the game dwindled down, a broken up shot Aaron Ekblad shot found its way to Matthew Tkachuk in front of the net.
Tkachuk quickly fed the puck through Andersen’s five-hole, putting the Panthers up 2-0, 10:23 into the game.
The desperate Hurricanes didn’t let Florida’s multi-goal lead last long. Just a few minutes after Tkachuk’s goal, Carolina got one back.
A shot from near the corner landed in the blue pain behind a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky. Paul Stasny beat Bobrovsky to the loose puck, cutting the Panthers lead in half with just under seven minutes to go in the period.
The three goal first period tonight was a completely different script from the 1-0 Game 3 we saw on Monday night.
After an eventful opening 20 minutes, the Panthers took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room.
As the teams took the ice for the second Carolina was able to get this game even just three minutes into the period.
Similar to Tkachuk’s goal in the first, a Carolina shot from up high got broken up in front of goal before landing on the stick of Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen shot the puck over an out of position Bobrovsky, tying the game at 2-2.
Just like that, Florida’s two-goal lead was gone.
With Carolina’s two unanswered goals, the building wasn’t quiet, but it definitely didn’t have the same energy as it did in the first.
That was a problem that fan favorite Ryan Lomberg was able to solve. 9:49 into the second period, the Panthers fourth line executed one of the nicest passing plays you’ll see all postseason.
Lomberg started the play by dishing the puck to Eric Staal down low, who quickly spun it around his body to a wide-open Colin White in front of the Canes net. Rather than forcing a handcuffed shot, White calmly slid the puck over to Lomberg — who tapped in the go ahead goal. Florida went up 3-2, and FLA Live Arena went crazy as you’d expect.
Lomberg’s goal would be the final one of the period, due in large part to some big saves by Sergei Bobrovsky. As the period came to an end, ‘BOB-BY’ chants echoed through the sold out arena from the Panthers faithful.
Their team went into the break with a one-goal lead — and 20 minutes away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
Florida held on to their lead for most of the third, but with 3:22 left, Carolina kept their season alive.
Jesper Fast put away the game tying goal, and overtime looked to be on the horizon in Sunrise.
But the hockey gods seemed to not want extra hockey.
With just 57 seconds left in regulation, Carolina captain Jordan Staal was sent to the box — giving Florida a last minute power play.
A goal would mean a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the other option would be another OT game… Matthew Tkachuk said ‘bus in 10’.
The Panthers star forward came around the net, held out Andersen and put this series to bed.
With 4.9 seconds remaining, the Florida Panthers took the lead — and the series.
Florida will have to await the winner of the Vegas-Dallas series to see who their final opponent of the season will be. Vegas currently leads Dallas 3-0.
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