Matthew Tkachuk scored his second goal of the night with five seconds remaining in regulation and the Florida Panthers punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday in Sunrise, Fla.
The Panthers completed a four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference finals to seal their second trip to the title round. They were sweep in the 1996 finals by the Colorado Avalanche.
With Florida on a power play, Tkachuk calmly took the puck to the front of the net and tallied his ninth goal of the playoffs to complete the series. Tkachuk scored three winning goals in the best-of-seven set, the others coming in the fourth overtime in Game 1 and the first OT in Game 2.
His goal ties the NHL record for the latest series-winning goal in regulation. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nick Metz eliminated the New York Rangers with five seconds left in Game 6 of a Stanley Cup semifinals series in 1942.
Anthony Duclair and Ryan Lomberg also scored for the Panthers, who recorded the franchise’s first ever playoff series sweep.
The Panthers will face the victor of the Western Conference finals between the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars in the finals. Vegas leads Dallas three games to none.
Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves and captain Aleksander Barkov netted two assists.
Paul Stastny, Teuvo Teravainen and Jesper Fast scored for the Hurricanes, who have been swept in their past three trips to the Eastern Conference finals. Brady Skjei and Jordan Martinook collected a pair of assists apiece, and goalie Frederik Andersen stopped 20 shots.
Duclair sent the Panthers off and running when he opened the scoring 41 seconds into the game, and Tkachuk doubled the lead with a power-play goal just past the midway point of the opening frame.
The Hurricanes drew even when Stastny netted his fourth of the playoffs to put the visitors on the board at 13:03 of the first period and Teravainen scored his first of the postseason at 2:51 of the second period.
Lomberg’s first of the playoffs moved the Panthers ahead again midway through the second period, but Fast tied the clash again with 3:22 remaining in regulation.
Both sides lost players due to in-game injuries. Florida forward Eetu Luostarinen left the game in the second period after blocking a shot with his leg.
Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin was on the receiving end of a clean but hard hit from Sam Bennett and appeared to hit his head on the ice as he fell backward. The team said he sustained an upper-body injury.
Hurricanes forward Stefan Noesen also left the clash due to an upper-body injury sustained in the first period. He briefly played in the second period but didn’t skate in the final frame.