- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk lets everyone know when it’s time to leave the rink by scoring game-winning overtime goals.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tkachuk scored with 13 seconds remaining in quadruple overtime, the sixth longest Stanley Cup playoff game in NHL history. In Game 2 on Saturday night, he only needed one minute and 51 seconds to score a power-play goal in the first overtime to give Florida a 2-0 series lead.
But after scoring both those goals, he literally tells his team it’s time to leave the rink: Tkachuk immediately and emphatically pointed towards the exit door of the rink, sprinting towards it while leading his team off the ice and to the dressing room for a celebration.
No playing to the crowd. No sliding along the ice while pumping his fists. Not even the goal celebration in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins in the first round, when he circled to center ice and was mobbed by his teammates.
Just a mad dash for the exit.
Tkachuk called it “the old ‘bus in 10 [minutes]’ celebration” after Game 2.
“Let’s get out of here. It’s been a lot of hockey the last two games,” he said.
Tkachuk said the celebration just came to him in the moment after goal in the fourth overtime on Friday morning in Raleigh. In Game 2 on Saturday, Tkachuk and the Panthers were near the rink’s exit door right after scoring on the power play.
“We were already there so I guess. I said, ‘It’s a lot of hockey. Let’s go. Let’s get off the ice, take off the skates,'” he said.
His coach, Paul Maurice, said it wasn’t a goal celebration he had seen before.
“I got what he was doing,” he said. “We walk into the rink tonight and it feels like we never left. We’ve been in this rink a lot and I think we’re just pretty happy to be up two [games] and get out of here.”
Tkachuk now has seven goals in the playoffs, leading the Panthers to within two wins of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1996. Game 3 is Monday night in Sunrise, Florida.
“I can’t wait. It’s been so fun playing there all year. I’m sure it’s going to be the loudest [building] on Monday,” he said.
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