For the second straight game, Matthew Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal in overtime and the Florida Panthers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 to take a 2-0 series lead.
After a marathon game of four overtime periods in Game 1, the suspense lasted much less on Saturday. Tkachuk gave the victory to his team after 111 seconds of play. Sergei Bobrovsky was again smoking in front of the Panthers net with 37 saves.
“I feel like we are improving, although the first 10 minutes were clearly not our best. I felt that we were playing better the more the match progressed. We have to start our meetings better,” said Tkachuk.
On his return to the Hurricanes goal, Antti Raanta stopped 24 of 26 shots he faced.
“We played well. I’m happy with the way we played. We just haven’t found a way to score. It’s tough and you can see the line is thin,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
The Canes were quick to open the scoring in this duel. Jalen Chatfield took advantage of a superb snap from Sebastian Aho to score his first career playoff goal after just 103 seconds.
The Panthers thought they had tied the game only a minute later. Gustav Forsling got the better of Antti Raanta, but Rod Brind’Amour opted to challenge the officials’ decision due to a possible offside. The head coach was right and the Canes were able to retain their advance.
If the Panthers trailed by only one goal in the first period, it is largely thanks to Sergei Bobrovsky. The Russian keeper received a barrage of 20 shots in the first 15 minutes of play.
“He gave us time to recover. Even though it took us half the game to get there, we knew he was there to make saves,” Tkachuk shared.
Bobrovsky, however, saw Jack Drury thwart him on his 21st shot, but it was Paul Maurice’s turn to challenge the decision. Like Brind’Amour, Maurice also won his case to allow the Panthers to retreat to the locker room late by a single net after 20 minutes.
“You have to take advantage of it when the momentum is on your side. That’s what we haven’t been able to do so far. These are tough losses to take. It’s not new to us. We’ve been hit in the face over the past few years and we’ve always responded,” admitted the Hurricanes head coach.
Maurice’s troupe seemed completely reinvigorated in the middle period. Aleksander Barkov took the opportunity to equalize with a superb fake while he was alone in front of Raanta. Barkov made it look like he was going to shoot the puck from between his legs, but instead came back from the backhand to shoot quickly to the side of the mitt. The Panthers captain found the back of the net for the fourth time in the playoffs.
After a spirited start to the game, both teams closed play in the second half. Bobrovsky and Raanta held on in front of their respective nets. After 60 minutes, Bobrovsky had 36 saves and Raanta had 21 saved shots. For the second time in as many games, overtime was therefore necessary in this series.
Quiet until then, Jesperi Kotkaniemi has found a very bad way to get people talking about him. The former Habs was kicked out at the start of overtime for hooking Josh Mahura.
Shut out on two occasions in this game, the Panthers’ massive offense found the right moment to strike. Tkachuk completed a superb passing game from Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett to score his third game-winning goal in overtime in this series.
It’s not the first time Brind’Amour has trailed 2-0 in a series. A journalist asked him after the game if his experience in 2006 as a player when he came back against the Montreal Canadiens could be useful to his players.
“I don’t think so, it’s old news that doesn’t interest the players. We know it has happened before. It’s boring to say, but we just have to focus on the next game,” said the coach.
The Panthers now have a perfect record of six overtime wins since the start of the playoffs. The series will move to Sunrise, where Game 3 of this series will take place on Monday night.