How the Florida Panthers topped Vegas to claw back into Stanley Cup Finals

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game winning goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Three of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena on June 08, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game winning goal against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Three of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena on June 08, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

After going down 2-0 to the Golden Knights, the Florida Panthers fought back to take Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Here’s how they got the win.

We have a series. The Florida Panthers beat the Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals at FLA Live Arena thanks to Carter Verhaeghe’s winning goal in overtime. It is the first Finals victory for the Panthers. Vegas’s series lead has been sliced to 2-1. Verhaeghe’s goal followed a game-tying score by Matthew Tkachuk. Florida remains undefeated this postseason in overtime with a 7-0 record. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves after allowing four goals in the first two games.

Florida Panthers: How they clawed back vs. Vegas to get back in Stanley Cup Finals

3. Powerless Play from the Panthers

Florida’s penalty kill showed up, killing off a Vegas Power Play in overtime. But conversely, we’re still waiting for the Panthers’ power play to appear in this series.

Their power play is 0-for-12 in the series. They went 0-for-5 in Game 3. Vegas pounced, scoring both of their goals on the man advantage.

Florida head coach Paul Maurice said before Game 3 that he didn’t think his team needed to be extremley physical. That meant staying out of the penalty box and playing clean hockey. The team showed they’d received that message 4:08 into the contest when Brandon Montour scored to give Florida an early 1-0 lead.

Tkachuk fed Montour, who was cutting toward the net from the point. Montour then scored over Adin Hill’s right shoulder.

Montour had six goals through the first eight playoff games. But he had none over the previous ten. Just two days after becoming a father, the defenseman delivered.

But with 3:57 remaining, Vegas tied the score on the Power play. The goal came from captain Mark Stone, who deflected Jonathan Marchessault’s attempt past Bobrovsky.

Then in the second, Marchessault scored his fourth goal of the series and third on the power play, blasting a one-timer feed from Jack Eichel past Bobrovsky.

It was the winger’s 13th tally in the last 13 games as he continuously haunts his former team who let him go to Vegas in the 2017 NHL expansion draft.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky kept the Panthers in it

Before Florida’s stars stepped up, the Panthers made their fair share of mistakes.

Luckily, Sergei Bobrovsky was sharp. His stunning saves gave them a chance late in the contest. Jack Eichel fed Nicolas Hague, who had time and space to walk in and get a clean shot off, but it went right into the glove of the Panthers goalie. He denied Nicolas Roy with his shoulder in tight when he tried to cross the crease.

He slid and stopped Brett Howden, who attempted to beat him on a backdoor play.

Sam Bennett turned the puck over in his zone, leading to a Chandler Stephenson breakaway. But Bobrovsky stopped that shot and the rebound attempt. It kept things at 2-1 after two periods.

Just before Tkachuk tied the score, Bobrovsky denied Micheal Amdiao of a Power play goal.

He was Florida’s rock, as he’s been all postseason. Verhaeghe said, “You’ve seen all playoffs. “he’s been unbelievable. Without him, we’re not here.”

He stole another game. He kept Florida’s hopes alive. But what they needed was a scorer. With 2:19 left, they got it.

1. Tkcachuk…Ka-Ching!

Mathew Tkachuk landed a clean check on Eichel in Game 2. Keegan Kolesar nailed Tkachuk in Game 3. How’s that for karma? Like Eichel, Tkachuk fell but got back up and continued playing. However, he sustained an undisclosed injury and had to leave the game for the remainder of the period.

Like Eichel, Tkachuk returned and delivered at a crucial time for his team. With 2:19 remaining, Tkachuk pounced on a loose puck and scored to force overtime.

The goal came off an Aaron Ekblad point shot, which created the rebound in front of the net. Tkachuk is now tied for the NHL lead with 24 points this postseason. He also made a net-front screen which led to Verhaeghe’s overtime goal.

But don’t tell him that, as he wants his teammate’s powerful shot to get full credit.

“He has the nose for the net, has an unbelievable shot, and finds the soft areas like not many guys can.” Tkachuk said, via The Hockey News. “His skating allows him to be one of the top players in the league. He’s got that offensive package that you very rarely see. You saw the shot tonight. It wasn’t screened, it just beat him clean, and he has that ability. Not many guys have that ability from that far out.”

Verhaeghe’s response? “Thanks pal.”

Yes, Verhage won it. Yes, his contributions have been paramount to Florida’s success. That goal was Verhage’s seventh of the playoffs. Three of them have been game-winners.  But Tkachuk is the reason why Florida’s here. We could’ve been looking at a series sweep on Saturday. Instead, Game 4 now looms as one that can turn the series. It allows Floria to double down on the momentum they’ve acquired from this victory.

“Our goal was to come in and win a game,” said Verhaeghe. “We had to find a way.”

Now they’ll have to do it again.

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