Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk silenced the sold out crowd at PNC Arena in Carolina on Thursday, sniping an absolute rocket in the waning seconds of the fourth overtime period to give the Panthers a dramatic 3-2 win over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
For the second series in a row, the Panthers won a thrilling Game 1 on the road, this time stealing home ice away from the Hurricanes in what was the sixth longest game in National Hockey League history, and the longest in franchise history for both the Cats and Canes.
MATTHEW TKACHUK WINS IT! 😼 #StanleyCup
With time dwindling down in the fourth overtime, Matthew Tkachuk (@TKACHUKycheese_) rips home the winner to give the @FlaPanthers the Game 1 win! pic.twitter.com/8eCbucLa1G
— NHL (@NHL) May 19, 2023
The game started at 8:10 p.m. ET on Thursday and didn't end until 1:54 a.m. ET on Friday, with a total elapsed game time of an astounding 139 minutes and 47 seconds.
Tkachuk had a hilarious celebration, pointing right to the visitors tunnel and basically skating right off the ice after winning the game with just 12.7 seconds left in OT4.
What a celebration from Matthew Tkachuk after scoring the OT winner pic.twitter.com/10jJbv9Pqi
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 19, 2023
“I'm excited to get outta here,” the superstar said after the game with a smile, per Sportsnet. “I'm excited to catch that 2:35 bus back to the hotel and get some sleep, get some food and everything in us. Guys cracking red bulls before the fourth overtime, there's pizza flowing, it was actually pretty funny seeing it.”
There were times during the contest when it didn't seem like the game would end at all, with Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen shutting the door for over two consecutive hockey games before Tkachuk scored the winner.
Bobrovsky set a Panthers record with 63 saves, including 34 in overtime, while Andersen made history of his own with 57 saves for the Hurricanes, with 39 of those coming in the four extra frames.
It'll now be a race to recovery for both of these clubs, before a crucial Game 2 gets underway on Saturday night as Carolina looks to avoid heading to South Florida down 2-0.