RALEIGH, N.C. — Matthew Tkachuk didn’t need four overtimes to score the game-winning goal this time. He just needed one to give the Florida Panthers a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Panthers winger’s power-play goal at 1:51 of overtime gave his team a 2-1 win on Saturday night.
Game 1 of the conference final was the sixth-longest Stanley Cup playoff game in NHL history, lasting four overtimes until Tkachuk’s goal at 19:47.
On Saturday, with Carolina forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the penalty box for hooking, the Panthers’ Sam Bennett passed to Sam Reinhart, who found Tkachuk for a quick shot that beat goalie Antti Raanta high.
Just like he did when the Panthers won Game 1 in the fourth overtime, Tkachuk pointed to the exit of the rink and led his Panthers off the ice to celebrate.
Carolina opened the scoring just 1:43 into the game. Winger Stefan Noesen skated in with a shot that Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky blocked to the opposite corner. That’s where Sebastian Aho found it and quickly sent a pass to a cutting Jalen Chatfield. He deflected it past Bobrovsky for his first career playoff goal.
Florida appeared to tie the score moments later on a Gustav Forsling shot that sailed through traffic. But Carolina used a coach’s challenge, believing the play was offside. Video review determined that Bennett didn’t have possession of the puck as he crossed the blue line before it did. No goal, and the Hurricanes maintained their lead.
The Hurricanes also had a goal taken off the board with 4:04 left in the period. A nice passing play from forward Mackenzie MacEachern — who replaced Derek Stepan in the lineup for Game 2 — set up a Jack Drury shot that beat Bobrovsky to the high glove side. But the Panthers used a coaches challenge and the officials determined the play was offside. No goal, again.
Florida tied the score at 7:43 of the second period on a patient goal from captain Aleksander Barkov, who had just served a holding penalty that the Panthers killed off. Florida’s forecheck didn’t allow Carolina to clear its defensive zone. As defenseman Josh Mahura kept the puck at the blue line, Barkov snuck behind four Carolina defenders and received a pass alone in front of Carolina goalie Antti Raanta. Barkov brilliantly deked Raanta, faking like he was going to shoot the puck through his legs before waiting out the goalie and beating him with a backhand.
The third period saw the Panthers’ Colin White nearly break the tie, sliding the puck across the goal line with Raanta out of his net. The Hurricanes had a power play with just over six minutes remaining but couldn’t convert. By the end of regulation, the score remained 1-1 and Bobrovsky had stopped 35 of 36 shots.
The Hurricanes started Raanta after goalie Frederik Andersen played four overtimes in Game 1.
Raanta, 34, last appeared in the Hurricanes’ Game 5 loss against the New York Islanders on April 25 in the first round. Andersen took over the crease and won Game 6 and has started every game since then.
Andersen and Bobrovsky both played 139 minutes and 47 seconds in Game 1. Panthers coach Paul Maurice didn’t hesitate in naming Bobrovsky his starter for Game 2, but Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour indicated after Game 1 that a load management decision for his goaltenders was under consideration.
“You have to. The guy played the whole game,” he said.
Game 3 is Monday night in Sunrise, Florida.
Tkachuk nets winner in OT (again), as Panthers take 2-0 lead