Playoff Takeaways: Bobrovsky bounces back; unlikely hero helps Kraken push Avs to brink

Sergei Bobrovsky had 44 saves on the night, Matthew Tkachuk scored the overtime winner, and the Florida Panthers kept their season alive with a 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins and forced Game 6.

Sergei Bobrovsky was 2-7 in elimination games entering Wednesday’s Game 5 and had allowed five goals on 30 shots faced in an ugly Game 4 loss. Bobrovsky had also dropped five consecutive playoff starts dating back to last season’s second-round sweep at the hands of rival Tampa.

To say the Florida Panthers’ $10-million man was feeling the pressure on the road against the Boston Bruins would be an understatement.

Bobrovsky kept his composure between the pipes, though, and helped his team extend this first-round series and send it back to the Sunshine State after a dramatic victory.

The two-time Vezina Trophy winner ended up stopping 44 of the 47 shots he faced, including a literal last-second pad save on a Brad Marchand breakaway that had it gone in would’ve resulted in a handshake line. Instead, the game went to overtime and his teammates took care of the rest.

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“I felt that the pressure needed to be on Sergei to play this game,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said after the game. “The leaders carry the weight of your team. He needed to carry that weight, and he was brilliant.”

Bobrovsky was steady in the first 20 minutes, stopping several quality Bruins scoring chances and controlled his rebounds well – he even had a nice old-school stick-swing poke check on a Charlie Coyle wraparound attempt.

It was a different story to open the second period as the Bruins began with an added pep in their step, drawing an early penalty and generating multiple scoring chances on the man advantage. Marchand scored his fourth of the playoffs moments after Patrice Bergeron wrang one off the pipe in his first game back from injury. Marchand was able to extend his point streak by poking in his own rebound that had squeaked through Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky wasn’t knocked off his game even as the Bs were buzzin’. Bobrovsky’s Game 5 performance marked the sixth time in his post-season career that he made 42 or more saves in a game.

His counterpart at the other end, Linus Ullmark, didn’t have a great night. This year’s Vezina favourite only faced 25 shots all game but his performance will be remembered for his brutal flub six minutes into OT. Carter Verhaeghe took advantage of the misplay and picked up his third apple of the night by setting up Mathew Tkachuk for the game winner.

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These teams will hit the ice again Friday at FLA Live Arena as the Panthers look to force a Game 7.

Bergeron reaches milestone in return to lineup

The Bruins captain became the third player in Bruins history to record 50 career post-season goals when he tipped in a shot to tie the game 2-2 early in the third period.

Bergeron had missed the first four games while recovering from an injury sustained in the regular-season finale. The centre finished Wednesday with 19:03 of ice-time, won 20 of 29 faceoff attempts and led all forwards with six shots on goal.

The Bruins were still without David Krejci, who has been out of the lineup since Game 3.

Unlikely Kraken hero helps push defending champs to the brink

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The Colorado Avalanche were without star defenceman Cale Makar for their pivotal Game 5 matchup with the Seattle Kraken. The reigning Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy winner was serving a one-game suspension for his late hit on Jared McCann who also was unavailable Wednesday.

That put the Avalanche at a disadvantage before the puck even dropped. Another contributing factor to the Avalanche having to play consistent catchup was Seattle scoring the opening goal of the game yet again.

The Kraken have scored the first goal in all five games of this series. After peppering Alexandar Georgiev with 15 shots in the opening period, Morgan Geekie opened the scoring for the Kraken with his second of the playoffs to put the Kraken ahead in the second period.

Nathan MacKinnon evened things up 1:20 later but the home crowd quieted down and Seattle regained momentum after Tye Kartye introduced himself to the hockey world.

Kartye, an undrafted free agent making his NHL debut, put the Kraken back ahead with his first NHL goal.

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He became the first player to make his NHL debut in a playoff game and score a goal in that game since Makar of all people did it with the Avalanche in 2019.

Kartye wasn’t in the lineup as a charity case by any means. The soon-to-be 22-year-old had 28 goals and 57 points in 72 games with the Coachella Valley Firebirds and won the Red Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s Rookie of the Year this past season.

His goal occurred shortly after MacKinnon was hauled down during a puck battle in Seattle’s end. MacKinnon clearly thought it should’ve resulted in a penalty because when the referee’s hand didn’t go up the star forward slammed his stick into the glass in frustration.

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The Kraken immediately went down into the Colorado zone and took the lead. Yanni Gourde extended the Kraken lead with a deflection early in the third period. Colorado pulled within one goal when Evan Rodrigues made it 3-2 late thanks to a lucky bounce while his team’s net was empty for an extra attacker but Seattle held on.

Seattle now has a chance to lock up the franchise’s first playoff series win on Friday at home in Game 6.

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