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Panthers Take 1-0 Series Lead After Seven Periods of Hockey



Courtesy @FlaPanthers

The NHL Eastern Conference Final got off to a historic start with a quadruple overtime thriller in game one. In the sixth longest playoff game in NHL history and the longest game in Panthers’ franchise history, the Cats stole game one on the road to take a series lead over the Hurricanes. It took nearly seven full periods and six hours, but the Panthers became the third team in NHL history to win their first five overtime games in a single postseason with their game one win. 

Carolina came out hot at home and took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a power play goal by Seth Jarvis. Little did they know they would still have the equivalent of two full games left to play in the night. The Panthers struggled to get much going offensively until late in the second period when they broke through with back-to-back goals less than three minutes apart to take a 2-1 lead. 

Cats’ captain Sasha Barkov got them on the board and tied the game at one before Carter Verhaeghe added a goal of his own to put the Panthers ahead. Barkov was criticized for a quiet start to this postseason but has quickly turned up the heat after the first round.

The game remained 2-1 until early in the third period when the Panthers committed another penalty and the Canes capitalized with a power play goal by Stefan Noesen. This tied the game with 16 minutes remaining in the third period, but the night was just getting started. As the third period continued, both teams had huge opportunities to potentially end the game in regulation. 

With seven minutes left in regulation it looked like Carolina was taking a 3-2 lead, but an incredible save by Sergei Bobrovsky kept things all knotted up. This was just the start of a historic run of saves for Bobrovsky. In the final minute of regulation, the Panthers had their chance to end it as Brandon Montour missed a great opportunity to win the game for the Cats.

Less than three minutes into the first overtime it looked like the Panthers had won the game and fans were going to get to sleep at a reasonable time. Lomberg snuck a shot passed Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen that had the Cats celebrating and the dejected Hurricane fans headed for the exits. That feeling quickly dissipated as the NHL office buzzed down to review the play for goaltender interference. 

After a lengthy review, the officials made the very controversial decision to overturn the goal over minimum contact that resulted mostly from the Carolina defender backing down the Panther into the blue paint. This overturned goal meant the game would continue and it sure did, for roughly another three hours.

As legs got wobbly, play got sloppy and the night grew longer, Panthers’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall. ‘Bob’ was peppered with shots but refused to let anything by him to the tune of 63 saves including stopping a perfect 55 out of 55 shots at even strength. Bobrovsky made sprawling kick saves, glove saves, and stick saves to keep the game going all night long. In seven periods of play, Bobrovsky and the Panthers didn’t allow a single goal during 5v5. 

As the clock approached 2am on a game that started six hours prior, it started to look like this battle might never end. The fans, announcers, and players alike all looked exhausted and neither team could get anything going in the offensive zone. Time was winding down on the seventh period of hockey and another fifteen-minute intermission before an eighth period seemed inevitable when Matthew Tkachuk created just enough space to lift the puck up and over the shoulder of Frederik Andersen and into the back of the net. Tkachuk, like everyone else, was ready to go home and immediately pointed to the exit and skated off into the locker room as the team followed to celebrate a huge road win to take the series lead. 

This was the Panthers seventh straight postseason road winwhich ranks second all-time in NHL history. Taking game one on the road and stealing home ice advantage is a huge boost for the Cats who are looking to reach their second Stanley Cup Final in NHL history.

The physical and emotional toll of losing a game like this can’tbe understated and the Panthers will look to keep the momentum rolling and go for an eighth straight road win on Saturday. The Panthers must feel confident following this performance, especially if they can stay out of the penalty box. The Cats outscored the Canes 3-0 at even strength and looked like the much better team during 5v5 play. If the Panthers can play disciplined hockey and limit penalties, a Stanley Cup Final birth could be on the horizon.

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