Panthers take commanding lead vs. Hurricanes despite injury to captain Aleksander Barkov

The Florida Panthers took a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference final Monday night, even with their captain missing most of the game.

But that's because veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky continued his stellar play since he entered play late in the first round and turned around the Panthers' playoff fortunes.

Bobrovsky made 32 saves, and Sam Reinhart scored the game's lone goal on the power play against the league's top playoff penalty killing unit as the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 in Sunrise, Florida. The goalie has given up two or fewer goals in his last eight games.

The Panthers can wrap up their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1996 at home on Wednesday night.

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.

Captain Aleksander Barkov left the game in the first period after he was hit from Carolina’s Jack Drury.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice was coy about what happened to Barkov, who has 12 points in 15 games.

"He was at a bar mitzvah," he said Monday. "Yeah, that's what we'll go with. His neighbor had a bar mitzvah, and he didn't want to disappoint the kids."

Maurice told WQAM radio on Tuesday that he was optimistic about Barkov's status.

"We're hopeful with this one that it's not going to be long-term. We don't think it's anything too sinister," he said. "I'd say I'm more on the optimistic side right now.

The Panthers were the league's top regular-season team in 2021-22 but fell to 92 points this season. They have upset the record-setting Boston Bruins, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit, and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first two rounds.

Now they have the No. 2 overall Carolina Hurricanes on the ropes despite being outshot 32-17 in Game 3. The Panthers have never swept a series.

"We like how we're playing, clearly," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We got to find a way to put one in."

Brooks Koepka attends Panthers game

PGA championship winner Brooks Koepka attended Monday's game and had a better prop than he had in a previous game.

In a late March game, he held up a traffic cone and criticized Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad over a giveaway.

But this time, he wore a Panthers jersey and brought the Wanamaker Trophy after he won the PGA Championship for the third time.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panthers top Hurricanes 1-0 despite Aleksander Barkov injury