Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
RALEIGH, NC – Who knew? Or more accurately, who would have expected that the first game of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Eastern Conference Final would extend to four overtime periods starting on Thursday night and ending early Friday morning.
The majority of the sold-out crowd of 18,680 in attendance remained in PNC Arena until the end, around 2 a.m., for the historic game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers to come to an end.
The Panthers earned a hard-fought 3-2 series-opening win and chipped into Carolina’s home-ice advantage, claiming a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Seth Jarvis scored his fifth goal of the postseason and put the Hurricanes ahead, a power play marker, that gave the home side a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
Florida’s aggressive forechecking and pace eventually created scoring chances that they converted on by the end of 40 minutes of play.
Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov scored at 15:28 to tie it up, and Carter Verhaeghe followed with another goal just over two minutes later to give Florida a 2-1 lead by the second intermission.
Stefan Noesen evened it up early in the third, another power play goal for the Hurricanes, the second of six extra-man opportunities they had throughout.
In it for the long haul
Both squads kept battling along the boards in all three zones, finding chances to put pucks on net that both netminders turned away to eventually lead them all to a marathon finish.
Sergei Bobrovsky made a total of 63 saves for Florida, while Frederik Andersen did similar work in stopping 57 shots overall for Carolina.
It turned out to be the sixth-longest played NHL game, and the longest played in each team’s history.
Unfortunately, while the Caniac faithful endured a spectacular showcase of goaltending over seven periods of play, it had an unfortunate result as Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk finally ended it with just under 13 seconds – 12.7 to be precise.
Small margins for error
Capitalizing on a turnover in the Canes end, once the Panthers assistant captain got the puck, Tkachuk snapped a shot that finished top-shelf on Andersen’s glove side, and gave the visitors the win.
In overtime, Andersen was especially busy and made multiple stellar stops, 39 of them total, to Bobrovsky’s equally deniable efforts on 36 pucks that came near his net.
It was just a matter of time, but the ending seemed abrupt considering it appeared that a fifth extra period approached as the clock counted down.
Steady Freddie was caught off-guard on the shot as he may have been slightly screened by defender Brent Burns.
Just one game
Regardless, it was a loss that was well-contested, and set the tone for a series that is likely to go the limit, if this game provided any indication of such an outcome.
“It was going to be, who was going to make the last mistake, and unfortunately it was us,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said afterwards.
“There was lots of mistakes that could’ve went the other way too, so we gotta move forward.”
“There’s not much to say,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour added.
“You know how everybody feels. Tough way to lose a game, that’s for sure when you go that long – a lot of ups and downs in that game. It’s one game; at the end of the day it’s just one game. We’ll pick it up tomorrow, probably let these guys stay home, and pick it up the next day.”
Notables: Andersen set a new franchise playoff record for saves in a game. Frank Pietrangelo stopped 53 of 56 shots faced against MTL in Game 7 of the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, also suffering a 3-2 defeat. Despite the loss, Andersen has now registered a 5-1 record, 1.65 goals against average and .936 save percentage in seven straight starts during this postseason…Jarvis tallied two points (1g, 1a) marking his third multi-point game during this postseason and fifth of his NHL/Hurricanes playoff career. His three multi-point outings in these playoffs rank tied with Brent Burns for the second-most of any Hurricanes skater (Jordan Martinook: 4), and his five career multi-point games lead the team over the past two postseasons (2022-23). Jarvis’ five goals so far in the playoffs, tied him with Sebastian Aho and Jesper Fast for the team lead, and his two goals on the man-advantage trail only Stefan Noesen (3) for the team high.
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