Florida Panthers fans have every reason to celebrate as their team made it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996 in absolutely stunning fashion.
The Panthers, who came into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference side of the bracket, pulled off upsets over the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and on Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes.
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Matthew Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal with 4.9 seconds left in the game to seal Florida’s 4-3 win. A video from inside FLA Live Arena showed fans erupt in pure bliss after the superstar, who the team acquired in the offseason from the Calgary Flames, pushed the Panthers closer to the trophy.
“This was pure joy,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said after the game.
Toy rats came down from the stands in a salute to the old arena which was apparently a home for the unwanted guests way back then. Twenty-seven years later, the team is back in the final with a chance at glory.
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“We earned that thing, and definitely didn’t do it the easy way. We earned it,” Tkachuk said.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 36 saves in the win. He had a .966 save percentage in the series.
“It’s amazing,” the goaltender said. “We showed the resilience … and we’re lucky to have Chucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”
The Panthers will await the winner between the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars on the other side of the bracket. The Golden Knights have a 3-0 series lead over the Stars.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.