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Tkachuk scores another OT winner, lifting Panthers to 2-0 series lead vs Hurricanes

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes

May 18, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) reacts after scoring the game winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the fourth overtime period of game one in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

RALEIGH, N.C. - Matthew Tkachuk finished a feed from Sam Reinhart at the 1:51 mark of overtime to help the Florida Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Saturday night for a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final.

Less than two days after scoring the winner in a four-overtime thriller, Tkachuk came through again, this time on the power play after a faceoff win by the Panthers. Sam Bennett sent a pass to the left side for Reinhart, who zipped the puck across to Tkachuk for the easy finish against a sprawled-out Antti Raanta.

Tkachuk immediately skated toward the door on the boards leading to the Florida locker room, motioning to his teammates that it was time to roll out and celebrate.

It marked Tkachuk’s third overtime winner in the playoffs, which includes a Game 5 road win in the first-round upset of Boston following the Bruins’ record-setting regular season. And just like that, Florida won on the road for the eighth straight time in the playoffs - including starting 2-0 on the road in back-to-back series - and improved to 6-0 in overtime in the postseason.

Aleksander Barkov added a highlight-reel goal for Florida in the second period, while Sergei Bobrovsky again befuddled Carolina with 37 stops.

Jalen Chatfield scored Carolina’s lone goal in the opening minutes, while Raanta finished with 24 saves.

Each team also had a goal overturned on a video-review challenge for an unpenalized offsides while entering the zone leading up to the scores.

Florida has home-ice advantage for the next two games, starting Monday with Game 3 in Sunrise. The Panthers are now two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996, which also marks their last appearance in the East final.

The Panthers took the series opener in epic fashion, beating the Hurricanes on Tkachuk’s goal with 12.7 seconds left in the fourth OT early Friday to end the sixth-longest game in NHL postseason history - along with the longest game in the history of each franchise.

The hours since had become what Panthers coach Paul Maurice called “a race to recover” with both teams paying a “huge cost.” Neither practiced Friday nor had a team morning skate Saturday, opting to utilize every available moment of rest.

Florida stuck with its Game 1 lineup, including Bobrovsky after his 60-save performance. But the Hurricanes swapped goaltenders after Frederik Andersen’s heavy workload and started Raanta, who started the first five games of the postseason and had gone 19-3-3 during the regular season.

Bobrovsky was just as sharp as in Game 1, particularly against Carolina’s withering start that included holding Florida to one shot through the first 13 minutes. He came up with multiple big stops, most notably when he made it across the crease in time to get to Teuvo Teravainen’s backdoor attempt with his blocker after Martin Necas’ quick feed in the second.

Carolina rode the emotion from a roaring crowd for a fast start, with Sebastian Aho firing a loose rebound back toward the crease to Chatfield - who deflected the puck past Bobrovsky just 1:43 into the game.

Yet Florida responded in the second with Barkov’s gorgeous goal. He got loose and alone with Raanta after Florida had won a battle along the boards and got the puck to its captain.

Barkov started to slide the puck between his legs, freezing Raanta for a potential flip toward the net. But Barkov pulled the puck back forward and under his left skate and smoothly backhanded it into the net at 7:43 of the second to tie it at 1-1.