Florida Panthers one win away from sweep, spot in Stanley Cup Finals

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period.
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period.

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1996 after a 1-0 Game 3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show, stopping all 32 shots he faced to put the Panthers on the cusp of an Eastern Conference Finals sweep.

“He has been incredible all playoffs long and it has been incredible to see,” Sam Bennett said. “It gives our team that much more confidence and that much more belief. Even if they have a big push, we know we have a guy back there that’s gonna fight and do whatever it takes. It’s a lot of fun when you have a goalie playing like that.”

Sam Reinhart scored the decisive goal with 9:55 to go in the second period, tucking a wrist shot just below the crossbar off a feed from Matthew Tkachuk eight seconds into a power play.

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Florida was without captain Aleksander Barkov for most of the game after he left with a lower-body injury with 7:40 to go in the first period after taking a hit from Hurricanes forward Jack Drury.

He did not return to the game.

Florida coach Paul Maurice did not provide an update on Barkov’s status for Wednesday night’s Game 4. Per Panthers PR, the captain was ruled questionable to return.

Bobrovsky came up with 11 third-period saves to seal the deal for the Panthers.

“I have a great sense of pride being associated with the players in this room right now,” Maurice said. “Yeah, the coaches do some things but this is the players' time of the year and they are not looking to the bench for answers in this game. They know what the answers are and they are applying themselves.”

Here are three takeaways from Game 3:

Bobrovsky’s dominant run continues

If there is one reason why the Panthers are on their historic run, it is Bobrovsky.

The two-time Vezina Trophy winner extended his streak of games with two or fewer goals-against to eight games with his first shutout of the postseason. He has stopped 142 of the last 145 shots he faced dating back to Game 1 of the series.“We have so much confidence with him back there and it seems like every day, he is making another huge save, changing momentum and helping our team win games,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “He is so important back there. He is so calm. He takes it one at a time as well. He is our backbone and our best player.”

Panthers find way to beat dangerous Hurricanes penalty kill

The Hurricanes have been a dangerous team on the penalty kill all season and it has shown throughout the playoffs. They entered Monday night with a league-leading 88.9 percent penalty kill efficiency and for shorthanded goals for a good reason.

Their quick, aggressive style of play has suffocated their opponent’s passing lanes and creates easy rush chances the other way. And they shut the Panthers down that same way on their first five power play opportunities.

Tkachuk seemed to crack the code with his Game 2 overtime winner and Florida was able to replicate that in Game 3. The answer? A quick passing play off a face-off.“They pressure so much. They are so good at it and they are so smart at it,” Reinhart said. “The quicker you can support , the quicker you could work it around the net and put on rebounds. That is what puts a lot of stress on teams that pressure that much and really any penalty kill. That is really the only way you can break down a penalty kill that good.”

After a few quick passes around the boards off the draw, Tkachuk did the dishing this time. He found Reinhart in the slot with a quick pass, which he tucked into the top right corner for Florida’s first goal of the game.

No Barkov? No Problem. Florida’s forward depth proved big

The Panthers did not let their captain missing the last two periods of the game change the way they approached their style of play.

Young centers Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen, who took over Barkov’s spot on the top line following his exit, shouldered heavy minutes in the defensive zone and shined throughout the game.“It says a lot about how we play as a team and how we play defense,” Lundell said. “It’s not all about one guy, but of course, we’re not gonna lie, we want to work out there as much as we can. [Barkov] is a huge help for us. He is a leader and he has been awesome for us all year. But it is a huge, huge thing that our guys were able to step up and play good defense.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida Panthers defeat Carolina Hurricanes, one win from Stanley Cup Finals