Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tkachuk forces OT late and Panthers rally past Golden Knights for first win in Cup Final

By David Wilson Miami Herald

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers’ net was empty and their season all but on the line, and Matthew Tkachuk was right where he needed to be.

The star right wing, who only hours before termed Game 3 a must-win situation for the Panthers, prowled in his comfortable place around the Vegas Golden Knights’ crease and waited for his chance to save Florida’s season. One shot came from the outside, a bit too high, and he still nearly tipped it into the net. A second came and bounced precisely where Tkachuk needed it.

Tkachuk, who had already scored four winning goals in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, added a game-tying goal with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left and Florida avoided disaster by beating the Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime .

Vegas’ Cup series lead is down to 2-1 and neither team has lost a home game.

The Panthers were close to falling into a near-insurmountable 3-0 hole and will have a chance to tie the series in Game 4 on Saturday in South Florida.

Left wing Carter Verhaeghe scored with 15:33 left in the first overtime, after the Panthers killed off a penalty to start the extra session, and Florida won despite trailing for the vast majority of the game by scoring twice in less than seven minutes of game time.

They pulled off the win despite letting Vegas go 2 for 6 on the power play and going 0 for 5 on their own.

They pulled it off despite their serieslong penalty total climbing to 33, with their penalty minutes now at 146.

The Golden Knights got game-tying and go-ahead goals on the power play after star defenseman Brandon Montour scored to put Florida up 1-0 just 4:08 into the game.

The Panthers finished the first period with a 10-1 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances, but went into the first intermission tied at 1 because of their ongoing futility on special teams.

Florida is 0 for 12 on the power play in the series, but still alive.

The game – the Panthers’ first at home in a Cup final since 1996 and the first at FLA Live Arena – started with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino banging the drum to fire up the crowd of 19,735. The quick goal from Montour sent it into a frenzy.

Only about seven minutes later, an uneasy mood settled in. A crunching hit from Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar sent Tkachuk tumbling to the ice and stumbling as he tried to get up. The right wing stayed in for the ensuing power play, but then went back to the locker with 12:44 left in the first and period and didn’t return until 15:34 remained in the second.

By then, the game was tied at 1-1 and Vegas was in the middle of flipping play.

After the Panthers had a 10-1 lead in 5-on-5 scoring chances in the first period, the Golden Knights had a 9-3 edge in the second to leave Florida reeling.

Tkachuk and Verhaeghe teamed up to save the Panthers, giving Florida new life and its first win in a Stanley Cup Final.