Florida Panthers advance to first Stanley Cup Final in 27 years after sweeping Carolina Hurricanes

Lynne Sladky/AP

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov holds up the Prince of Wales trophy after the Panthers won Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in Sunrise, Florida.


The Florida Panthers swept the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday to advance to their second Stanley Cup final in franchise history and first since 1996.

The No. 8-seeded Panthers beat the Hurricanes 4-3 to become the first team in NHL history to enter the postseason as the lowest-seeded club and sweep a best-of-seven series to book a place in the final.

Florida got to work early, scoring just 41 seconds into the first period through Anthony Duclair, who bounced his own shot off the top of the goal. The lead doubled with 9:37 remaining in the first when Matthew Tkachuk scored his third goal of the series.

The Hurricanes responded, however, first with Paul Stastny’s clever spike under goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky’s chest and then leveling early in the second half with Teuvo Teravainen’s goal.

Florida regained the lead midway through the second when Ryan Lomberg forced Carolina to fumble and Colin White and Eric Staal thought sharply to sweep the open net. That seemed to be enough to secure a place in the final, but Jesper Fast leveled things with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

With the game set for overtime, the Panthers once again turned to Tkachuk, who calmly scored the game-winner with just 4.3 seconds remaining as Panthers fans inside FLA Live Arena went wild. It was Tkachuk’s third game-winning goal of the series.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen (31) reacts as a puck hit by Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (not shown) goes into the net with seconds to spare.

Florida won each game in the series by one goal.

The Panthers also became the third franchise in league history to complete their first best-of-seven sweep during the pre-final round.

Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup has been unlikely, given their status as the lowest-ranked team and the historic nature of their opposition. The Panthers edged out the Boston Bruins in the first round, despite Boston breaking the NHL regular season record for most wins (65) and most points (135) in a single season.

Florida then defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games in the second round.

The Panthers will face either the Vegas Golden Knights or the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. The Golden Knights currently lead the Western Conference Final 3-0.