'That guy is a gamer' - Maurice hails Tkachuk after Panthers shock OT win over Bruins
Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said overtime hero Matthew Tkachuk is "just a gamer" after his dramatic goal clinched a 4-3 road win over the Boston Bruins in Game 5.
The Panthers will take the series back to Florida for Game 6, with Tkachuk swooping on an error from Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark to show poise and score six minutes into OT.
Tkachuk has been a central point during the Stanley Cup first-round series, with Ullmark threatening to fight him in Game 4, but Maurice lavished him with praise after his Game 5 heroics.
"That guy is a - and then you put a long string of profanity - gamer," Maurice told reporters. "Is he not a gamer?
"There's 700 guys in the league, 640 of them jam that thing as fast as they can and lose it, and he pulls it across. He's just a gamer."
Tkachuk revelled in sending the series back to Florida, after scoring his first career playoff OT goal in his 32nd playoff game. It was also the Panthers' first OT win in their history when facing elimination (1-4).
"I think my favourite part about this is I guarantee everybody in this building thought the series was over today," he said. "Get it back on a flight down to Florida, that's the most exciting part."
The Bruins set several regular-season records, including most wins (65) and most points (135) in NHL history and were the raging favourites for the series against the Panthers, who were the East's second wild-card team.
"We were supposed to get swept this series, right? Everyone was saying," Tkachuk said. "I don't think anybody really gave us a chance after losing two games in a row at home. Coming here, it just seemed like the series was over before the game even started.
"Now they're coming down to Florida. We know there can't possibly be a Game 7 in their mind right now, and everybody here in Boston's minds. So it's up to us to see you guys back here in a few days."
It may have been different when Brad Marchand skated in alone on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky late in regulation but was denied.
"I knew it wasn’t going in," Maurice said, before he admitted he was lying. "You can't know that it wasn't going in, so I'm full of [it] when I just said that to you.
"But I don’t feel like we’ve had a whole lot of advantage in this series, in the karma of the game. I just felt that we had stored enough karma that that shot wouldn't go in."
The result means the Bruins have lost consecutive home games for the first time this season.
"We tend to make big mistakes right now," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "I don't know why, but the last two games at home we don't manage the ice or manage the puck, it's one of the two."