Matthew Tkachuk May 18, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) reacts after scoring the game winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the fourth overtime period of game one in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The last time an NHL player achieved what Matthew Tkachuk has done over the first two games of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Florida Panthers winger was more than three years away from being born.

Game 1 of the series started on Thursday night but ended on Friday morning. With less than 13 seconds left in the fourth overtime, Tkachuk buried a game-winning goal to give his Panthers a 1-0 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes. Three periods were also not enough to decide Game 2 on Saturday night.

But this time, overtime resembled a sprint more than a marathon. Not even two minutes into the first overtime period, the Panthers played hockey’s version of tic-tac-toe. Sam Bennett passed the puck to Sam Reinhart in front of the net. Carolina’s goalie, Antti Raanta, slid to his right, trying a stop a potential shot from Reinhart — only Reinhart didn’t shoot. Instead, he passed the puck to Tkachuk, who buried the game-winner.

We can’t say that two overtime game-winners in a Conference Finals is unprecedented — but it’s been a while. The last time it happened was 1994, when Stephane Matteau of the New York Rangers did it. The first time was in Game 3, giving the Rangers a 2-1 series lead. The second was in Game 7, giving New York a dramatic 4-3 series win over the New Jersey Devils.

Which is more impressive? That’s open for interpretation. Matteau’s second game-winner is one of the most famous goals in the history of the sport.

And, since it was in Game 7, it gave his team the series win. Tkachuk and the Panthers are still two wins away from a series victory.

On the other hand, Matteau needed seven games to bury two overtime winners. Tkachuk has only needed two.

So, while whose overtime winners were more impressive is open for debate, who was more efficient in getting them is not.

[Elias Sports Bureau]

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