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Panthers star doesn’t play in Game 5 against Golden Knights

Updated June 13, 2023 - 11:01 pm

The Florida Panthers played Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final without star center Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk did not take the ice for warmups Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena and was listed as a scratch with an undisclosed injury, which coach Paul Maurice revealed after the game was an upper-body fracture.

“That was a bit of a problem,” Maurice said of the injury. “I’m not sure if it was collarbone, sternum, clavicle, SI joint is a word I think I heard. But he fractured it.”

Without Tkachuk, the Panthers’ season ended with a 9-3 loss to the Golden Knights, who won the Stanley Cup in their sixth year in the NHL.

Tkachuk entered the game tied with Dallas’ Roope Hintz and the Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault with a league-best 24 points in the playoffs. Marchessault then took sole possession of the lead with a first-period assist, but Jack Eichel had three assists and finished the postseason in first with 26 points.

Tkachuk has been suffering from the effects of a physical postseason and left the ice for a stretch after a big hit from Keegan Kolesar in Game 3. He returned to the game and scored a goal, recording two goals and an assist in the first four games.

According to Maurice, Tkachuk played in Game 4 despite needing help from his teammates to put on his uniform.

“The next day when he came in, he was in significant pain,” Maurice said.

Maurice had been coy about Tkachuk’s status after an optional morning skate Tuesday, but admitted after the game there was never a chance he would be able to suit up.

During a pregame media availability Tuesday afternoon, Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said Tkachuk’s status wouldn’t change much about the game plan.

“It doesn’t complicate it much,” he said. “We’ll deal with whoever’s in there. They’ve obviously got top-end players and probably more power-play situations where you have to make more adjustments, but the five-on-five stuff doesn’t really change. Obviously, Tkachuk’s a high-end player, so there’s certain tendencies he has that we’ve talked about all series.

“If he’s in, those remain the same.”

Misfits get the start

Cassidy opened the game with a nod to the players who have been with the franchise since the beginning.

He mixed up his lines to start a forward combination of Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault. Smith scored a goal in the second period to give the Knights a 4-1 lead.

The usual defensive pairing of Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore joined them in the starting lineup.

Those are five of the six remaining players from the 2017-18 inaugural season, when the Knights lost to Washington in the Stanley Cup Final. Forward William Carrier is the sixth player.

Each of them got huge reactions from the boisterous crowd when they were announced as starters.

Getting offensive

The Knights continued to get major offensive contributions from their defensemen.

Nic Hague jammed a puck over the goal line in the second period to give the Knights a 2-0 lead, and Alec Martinez then ripped a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky after a brilliant pass from Jack Eichel in the second period for a 3-1 lead.

Hague became the 12th Knights player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final. Ivan Barbashev later became the 13th to put one in the net.

For Martinez, it was his fourth career Stanley Cup Final goal and second in a game in which his team clinched the Cup. Tuesday marked exactly nine years since his overtime game-winner for the Kings in 2014.

Finding balance

The Knights had two days to think about being one victory from winning the Stanley Cup from the time they won Game 4 on Saturday in Florida until they took the ice for Game 5.

They had to try to find ways to not obsess over the opportunity in front of them.

For Cassidy, that meant taking his dog for a walk late Tuesday morning. Winnie, a nearly 3-year-old Australian Labradoodle, knows nothing about the Panthers or the significance of the Stanley Cup. That gave Cassidy a chance to find some normalcy.

Kolesar said after Monday’s practice that he was able to decompress at home.

Instead of watching the Denver Nuggets clinch the NBA title and celebrate with a trophy — something he ended up doing Tuesday — he found other forms of entertainment.

“I totally shut off (Monday) and just kind of watched some movies, relaxed,” he said. “Just got my mind off of whatever I could with sports. Just kind of take the day to myself.”

What was the best thing he watched?

“I recommend watching ‘The Prestige’ by Christopher Nolan,” Kolesar said. “Great movie. You’ll never see the ending coming. That’s my recommendation.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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