Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 32 shots for his first career playoff shutout, Sam Reinhart scored a power play goal midway through the second period, and the Florida Panthers pulled one win away from an unlikely trip to the Cup Final. Stanley in shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 on Monday night.

Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett provided the assists on Reinhart’s goal for Florida, which now leads the Eastern Conference finals 3-0. The Panthers haven’t played for the Stanley Cup since 1996, but they can clinch a trip to the title round with a Game 4 win on Wednesday.


Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) reacts after scoring a goal during the second period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, Monday, May 22. May 2023, in Sunrise, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

This marks the 205th time a team has taken a 3-0 series lead in NHL playoff history. Of the first 204, 200 won the series. The Panthers are 2-0 when they take the first three games of a series; the Hurricanes are 0-5 when they drop the top three.

It wasn’t a perfect night for Florida, though: Captain Aleksander Barkov left with about 7 minutes left in the first period with a lower-body injury and didn’t return, despite being labeled questionable by the team.

Bobrovsky earned the shutout in his 58th playoff start. He is now 10-1 in his last 11 appearances and has been near perfect in the last eight games.

Returning to Game 1 of Round 2 against Toronto, Bobrovsky hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any game, making 296 saves on 309 shots.

Frederik Andersen stopped 16 shots for Carolina. The Hurricanes pulled him out with 3:22 remaining, desperate for the tying goal, barely managing to test Bobrovsky the rest of the way.


Sergei Bobrovsky celebrates

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is congratulated by defenseman Josh Mahura (28) and center Eric Staal (12) after the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals on Monday, May 1. February 22, 2023, in Sunrise, Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

It was the first game of the Eastern Finals at the Panthers’ current stadium: the only time the franchise had made it this far in the playoffs was in 1996, when it played in Miami in a building that was long since torn down.

It was also probably the first time they played with the Wanamaker Trophy present. Newly crowned PGA champion Brooks Koepka, a South Florida native and Panthers fan, donned a jersey and brought the big silver cup to the game.

The crowd roared when they saw him displaying the trophy he won on Sunday. Of course, there’s another silver trophy that Panthers fans would rather see someone with their jersey up before long. And the eighth-seeded Panthers are just five wins away now, tantalizingly close to a trip to the Finals, a trip few could have seen coming after barely making the playoffs and then having to get past a Boston team. which set a record in Round 1. and Toronto in Round 2.

A pair of overtime wins at Carolina, with Tkachuk winning both nights, and Monday’s win now has Florida on the brink of June hockey.

Aaron Ekblad crashes

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) and Carolina Hurricanes center Jack Drury (18) reach for the puck during the first period of Game 3 of the hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals of the NHL, on Monday, May 22, 2023, in Sunrise, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


Jeff Conine, who won two World Series titles with the then-Florida Marlins, beat the drum to get the crowd going just before game time. … It was the 98th game of the season for the Panthers. This will be the second season that Florida has gone over 100 games; the most was 104 in the 1995-96 season that ended in the Stanley Cup Final. … Carolina was shut out for the seventh time this season, twice in Florida. The Hurricanes lost 3-0 at Sunrise on November 9.



There have been 261 minutes, 38 seconds of hockey in this series, just over 13 periods, thanks to all the overtime, and no team has led by more than one goal at any time.