Ahead of the Florida Panthers' first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 27 years, revisit their incredible come-from-behind first round series victory over the Presidents' Trophy winning Boston Bruins.
(Video courtesy of @NHL YouTube)
The Bruins were favourites to lift the Cup entering the 2023 NHL Playoffs, and rightly so. Boston set new NHL records in wins (65) and points (135) and were the clear best team in hockey.
But it's never that easy in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Panthers have been playoff outsiders for the better part of their 29-year existence. They achieved three-straight playoff appearances for the first time ever from 2019-22, capped with a 58-win, Presidents' Trophy-winning season. But Florida was swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This year, the Panthers barely made the postseason and snuck in with a Wild Card spot, hence the first-round matchup against the best team in the NHL.
It looked even bleaker for Florida after falling behind 3-1 in the series.
The Bruins scored 16 goals across the first four games, including 4-2 and 6-2 wins in Games 3 & 4 in Florida.
But that was par for the course - being up 3-1 was to be expected for the league record-setters.
If there's one area of the game the Panthers have excelled in this postseason, it's in overtime.
They nearly never got in Game 5 when Brad Marchand had a 1-on-1 with Sergei Bobrovsky late in the third period, but 'Bob' made the stop to keep the score at 3-3.
Six minutes into OT, Matthew Tkachuk pounced on Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark's sloppy play and won the game for Florida. Panthers trail 3-2, still with a lot to do.
Game 6 in Florida was a 7-5 barn burner that could have gone either way, but resulted in a shock reality for Bruins fans - the Panthers had forced a Game 7 after Boston fumbled multiple opportunities to close the series. Tkachuk scored twice in the win, while Bobrovsky and co. held strong as the Bruins peppered his goal for a game-tying sixth goal late on.
No matter how exceptional the Bruins were throughout the regular season and the first four games of the series, or how much better they were 'on paper,' the NHL playoffs - Game 7s specifically - are the great equalizer.
Ullmark was pulled for Jeremy Swayman, who hadn't started a game in the series, in Boston coach Jim Montgomery's final roll of the dice.
Of course, Game 7 went to overtime. But not before Boston came mere seconds away from escaping.
The Presidents' Trophy winners rallied from 2-0 down to go up 3-2 in the third period, and led by one as the clock ticked to under a minute. But Florida's Brandon Montour tied it at 3, silencing TD Garden and effectively sending the game to an extra period.
The two teams then played eight minutes and 35 seconds over overtime hockey before a game and series winner was crowned.
This time, the hero was Carter Verhaeghe, who's wrister flew past Swayman's left shoulder and into the roof of the net.
Game, set, match. Panthers advance.