SUNRISE, Florida — Matthew Tkachuk scored a power-play goal with 4.9 seconds left to complete Florida’s sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and send the Panthers to their first Stanley Cup Final in 27 years.
A 4-3 win in Game 4 on Wednesday night gave the Panthers their first playoff series sweep in franchise history. Florida will now make its second Cup Final appearance, first since 1996. They await the winner of the Vegas Golden Knights-Dallas Stars series.
NHL Senior Vice President Brian Jennings officiated to present the Prince of Wales Trophy. A few snaps later, Alexander Barkov — Florida’s captain — caught it and skated. Few teams touch it. Some don’t. Some of the Panthers did, but Barkov didn’t get around to it.
After a 1-0 win in Game 3 on Monday, Sergei Bobrovsky’s 32-save shutout gave the Panthers a chance to close out the Hurricanes. Florida’s netminder was stellar again on Wednesday with 36 saves. Frederik Andersen stopped 21 shots at the other end to give Carolina a chance to extend the streak.
“It’s amazing,” Bobrowski said. “We showed resilience … and we’re lucky to have Chucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”
Florida was in control early in the 4th, taking a 1-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the middle of a mad scramble in front of Carolina’s net, past Anthony Duclair Anderson.
It was the start of a dream stretch for the Hurricanes.
Immediately after Duclair scored, Panthers forward Sam Bennett gave Carolina defenseman Jacob Slavin a big test when he played the puck behind his net. Slavin hit his head against the boards and was later ejected with an upper body injury.
Tkachuk gave Florida a 2-0 advantage on the power play when Sebastian Aho went to the box for interference, the first time — in nearly 14 periods — that a team had a two-goal lead in the series. . Each action came in the first 272 minutes of the series (including all overtime) with the score leveled or someone leveling the score.
When Paul Stastny pushed a sideline under a sprawling Bobrovsky, the Hurricanes got one in need of a boost. It was the first even-strength goal by a Carolina forward against Florida and ended Bobrovsky’s save streak at 72.
Florida took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but Carolina didn’t waste an evening when Duvo Teravainen scored his first playoff goal in the middle frame.
The Panthers regained the lead with a goal by Ryan Lomberg on a tic-tac-toe play by fourth-row teammates Mark Staal and Colin White. Florida took a 3-2 advantage into the third period and defended it against a desperate Carolina team trying to keep its season alive.
Searching for the equalizer, Carolina had a third power-play opportunity that saw Bobrovsky fire four shots, but none on goal. Late in the third period, with 4 minutes to play, Jesper Faust again found Bobrovsky with a quick strike to tie the score at 3.
A late tripping call by Carolina captain Jordan Staal gave Florida a power-play opportunity with 57 seconds left. Tkachuk beat Anderson with 4.9 seconds on the clock. Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour challenged the game on goaltender interference, but Tkachuk’s goal punched Florida’s ticket to the Cup Final.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.