SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The wait is over: After 27 years, the Florida Panthers — a hockey punchline no more — are again going to play for the game’s grandest prize.
Matthew Tkachuk, son of Blues great Keith and raised in the St. Louis area, delivered for Florida, again.
Tkachuk got his second goal of the game with 4.9 seconds left, lifting the Panthers past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 and into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996 after sweeping the Eastern Conference final.
The Panthers will play either Vegas or Dallas for the Stanley Cup starting sometime next week; Vegas currently leads the Western Conference title series 3-0.
“This was pure joy,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
Tkachuk arrived last summer saying he wanted to bring Florida a Cup. He’s four wins away.
“It’s amazing,” Bobrovsky said. “We showed the resilience … and we’re lucky to have Chucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”
Added Tkachuk: “We earned that thing, and definitely didn’t do it the easy way. We earned it.”
Tkachuk made it 2-0 on the power play midway through the first. He scored four goals, including three game-winners, in the Eastern Conference Final.
“It’s been unbelievable since July since I got here,” Tkachuk said. “And hopefully we can cap off this amazing year.”