Dave Hyde: Panthers two games from the Cup — but will they have to win them without Barkov?

SUNRISE — Leon Draisaitl wasn’t sorry.

“It’s just a hit,’’ the Edmonton star said.

Nothing more.

“I don’t think there’s anything dirty about it,’’ he said.

The question was if his “frustration” midway through the third period of the Florida Panthers’ eventual 4-1 win led him to deliver an elbow-leading hit to Aleksander Barkov’s head with such force that he jumped off the ice into the Panthers captain.

“Yeah, I don’t know,’’ he said. “Maybe I got him a little high, but certainly not with an intent to injure or anything like that.”

There were two stories out of the Panthers taking a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night. There’s the story of the Panthers taking control since the third period of Game 1, of Edmonton’s stars being shut down to seven shots in the first two periods of Game 2, of the Panthers’ Evan Rodrigues having three more goals this series than Connor McDavid, Draisaitl and Zach Hyman combined — than the entire Edmonton team’s one goal, if you want to do the surprising math.

“Pretty cool,’’ Rodrigues said.

So, there’s the story that the Panthers got out of these first two games just what they wanted in a manner they wanted, too. They found their game. They shut down the top offense this NHL postseason. They’ve given up one goal in two games to a team averaging 3.54 goals each playoff game before this series.

“I certainly have a lot more to give,’’ Draisaitl said. “Not my best tonight.”

Then there’s the second story. It left the team that’s two wins from a championship parade down New River in a dark mood. Their best player, their Dan Marino on ice, their Dwyane Wade on skates, slumped to the ice after that hit from Draisaitl and, after long minutes on it, had to be helped to the locker room.

“This isn’t the Oprah Winfrey Show,’’ Panthers coach Paul Maurice said how he felt seeing Barkov on the ice. “My feelings don’t matter.”

A line was crossed, the Panthers felt, and you could see it by how words had to be pulled slowly and unevenly from Maurice. He was asked if the game was closer, if the Panthers hadn’t scored on the ensuing power play with Draisaitl off with a roughing penalty, whether Barkov could have returned.

“There was 9:28 on the clock, I believe, in a 2-1 game,’’ Maurice said of the point Barkov was injured. “I’m not holding him.”

The question moving forward is how badly Barkov is hurt. A sore jaw? That’s hockey. A broken bone? Don’t expect there to be much in the way of medical updates between now and when the puck drops for Game 3 in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The NHL, for instance, doesn’t have the NFL term of “concussion protocol” in its glossary. There’s no public discussion of the various stages a player has to pass through. The NHL simply lists “upper body” or “lower body” injuries, in part to protect players from opponents knowing their exact injuries.

That’s more nuanced than a generation ago when the “diagonal rule” often was in play in NHL disclosures. If a team said a player’s left shoulder was injured, for instance, it really was his right ankle.

The Panthers were on the other side of this a month ago when Sam Bennett reacted to an impending hit by Boston’s Brad Marchand by stick-in-hand hitting Marchand in the jaw. The series changed as Marchand missed two games.

“People don’t want to say it, but part of the playoffs is trying to hurt every player on the other team,” Marchand said. “And the more guys you take out, the more advantage your team has. And people don’t say that. But that’s just a fact of the game.

“So every time you step on the ice, someone’s trying to hurt someone. And that’s just how it goes in the playoffs.”

That’s how it looked when Draisaitl launched himself into Barkov. The first impact was Barkov slumped to the ice. The impact to the series couldn’t be bigger if Barkov is affected moving forward. He’s the first line of defense against McDavid. He’s the train through the middle of the Panthers’ top line.

“I thought it was part of the game,’’ McDavid said of Draisaitl’s hit.

“I have no comment on that,’’ the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk said.

The Panthers did exactly what they wanted these two games in Sunrise. They’re two games from a title. The question becomes Barkov’s status for Game 3.

“We’re hoping he’s OK,’’ Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said.

A series might ride on it.