- Kristen Shilton is a national NHL reporter for ESPN.
SUNRISE, Florida — Matthew Tkachuk scored a power-play goal with 4.9 seconds remaining to complete Florida’s sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and send the Panthers to their first Stanley Cup Final in 27 years.
The 4-3 victory in Wednesday night’s Game 4 gave the Panthers their first playoff series sweep in franchise history. Florida will now make its second Cup Final appearance, and first since 1996. They await the winner of the Vegas Golden Knights-Dallas Stars series.
The Panthers gave themselves a chance to close out Carolina after earning a 1-0 victory in Monday’s Game 3, powered by a 32-save shutout from Sergei Bobrovsky. Florida’s netminder was stellar again Wednesday with 36 saves. Frederik Andersen stopped 21 shots at the other end to give Carolina a chance at extending the series.
Florida was in control early in Game 4, taking a 1-0 lead just 41 seconds into the first period when Anthony Duclair slipped a puck past Andersen amid a mad scramble in front of Carolina’s net.
That was just the start of a nightmare stretch for the Hurricanes.
Right after Duclair scored, Panthers forward Sam Bennett laid a massive check on Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin as he played the puck behind his net. Slavin hit his head against the boards and was later ruled out 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 either team had earned a two-goal lead in this series.
The Hurricanes, in need of a boost, got one when Paul Stastny pushed a puck under a sprawled-out Bobrovsky. That was the first even-strength goal a Carolina forward had scored against Florida and halted Bobrovsky’s save streak — going back to Game 2 — at 72.
Florida carried a 2-1 lead into the second period, but Carolina didn’t waste time evening the score when Teuvo Teravainen tallied his first playoff goal minutes into the middle frame.
The Panthers took the lead back with a goal from Ryan Lomberg off a tic-tac-toe play from fourth-line teammates Marc Staal and Colin White. Florida held a 3-2 advantage in the third period and defended it against a desperate Carolina team trying to keep its season alive.
Searching for the equalizer, Carolina had a critical power-play opportunity midway through the third that turned up four shots on Bobrovsky but no goal. It wasn’t until late in the third period, with just under 4 minutes to play, that Jesper Fast solved Bobrovsky again with a quick strike from in front to tie the game at 3.
A late tripping call on Carolina captain Jordan Staal gave Florida a power-play chance with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. Tkachuk beat Andersen with 4.9 seconds on the clock. Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour challenged the play over goaltender interference, but Tkachuk’s goal stood to punch Florida’s ticket to the Cup Final.
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