In each franchise’s longest game and the sixth longest game in NHL history, the Florida Panthers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk put the nail in the coffin when he went high glove side past goaltender Frederik Andersen with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime period.
Both teams played stingy defense all night, clogging up passing lanes and limiting scoring opportunities. Even when their respective defenses failed, both goaltenders stepped up to make save after save. Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky finished the game with 63 saves, tied for 10th most in a single game in NHL history. Andersen finished with 57 saves.
Both teams wrapped up their second-round matchups in six or less games, so as they waited for the West to finish their series, each team got a few more days of rest. Although rest may be nice for nagging injuries, it can also make a team less sharp when they come back, and the Canes certainly looked to be feeling that effect early on.
The Panthers were all over Carolina to start the first, as their forecheck they have been known for put the Canes on the back foot and forced them to rely on Andersen to keep it a 0-0 game. Left wing Teuvo Teravainen drew back into the lineup for the first time in four weeks and got off to a slow start just like the rest of his teammates
Despite a sluggish start, it was center Seth Jarvis who got the Canes on the board first. After a tripping and cross-checking call against the Panthers, Carolina found themselves in a 5-on-3 powerplay. Just as Florida defenseman Marc Staal was coming out of the box to make it a 5-on-4, Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho found his teammate in the slot and Jarvis ripped a one-timer past Bobrovsky with 12 seconds left in the first period to make it 1-0.
Going into the first intermission, the Canes had the momentum and looked to extend their lead over a Florida team that has dangerous goal scorers all throughout the lineup. However, both goaltenders kept making saves and both sets of defenseman were clearing pucks out of the zone relentlessly.
The Panthers finally found the back of the net with under five minutes to play in the second and it was Florida center Aleksander Barkov who tied the game by sneaking into the slot and firing one under Andersen’s glove. However, Florida wasn’t done just yet — just over two minutes later Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe scored his sixth goal of the postseason and just like that, Florida was up 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
With a fire lit under them, Carolina came out of the gates hot to start the third period, creating lots of chances in the offensive zone and dominating puck possession. After defenseman Brett Pesce took a high stick, the Hurricanes found themselves on the power play again and once again were able to convert thanks to a tic-tac-toe play that gave right wing Stefan Noesen his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Noesen’s goal with 16:13 remaining in the third period was the last goal for the next three hours of night and the game remained tied 2-2 heading into overtime. The Canes and Panthers were riding seven and four game OT win streaks coming into this contest.
The next four over time periods were a masterclass in excellent goalkeeping as Andersen and Bobrovsky faced off in one of the greatest playoff goaltending duels in recent history.
Every over time period saw each team get within inches of ending the game but ultimately each goaltender found a way to keep the puck out of the net. Just under three minutes into the first overtime period, the Panthers thought they ended the game; however, a goalie interference penalty brought that goal back, and the teams played on into Friday morning.
Each team had their share of opportunities from hitting the crossbar to one-on-one chances, nothing was getting past the netminders and for a while it seemed like there was no end in sight. The saves made in the overtime sessions had fans questioning how four goals were even scored in the first place as Andersen and Bobrovsky looked like goal-saving robots.
Mannnn. It looked like Freddie was down and out, but he keeps Verhaeghe's bid out.What a stop. pic.twitter.com/wAI8p6CUOI— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) May 19, 2023
Unfortunately for Andersen and the Canes, all good things must come to an end. With time winding down in the fourth overtime period, the defensemen pairing of Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns, who have been superb all playoffs, failed to clear the zone when they should have and a bouncing puck found its way to Tkachuk, who put numerous fans out of their misery and into bed.
Bobrovsky and the Panthers just barely outlasted Andersen and the Hurricanes as Carolina’s seven-game overtime win streak came to a brutal end. Although the result only counts for one game, the mental victory of winning a game that lasted twice as long as a regular contest will undoubtedly give the Panthers a boost the rest of the way.
Carolina will look to rebound in a big way on Saturday, May 20 when the team takes on Florida in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals in PNC arena. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m.
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