Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stops a shot from Carolina’s Stefan Noesen in the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final Monday night in Sunrise, Fla. Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

SUNRISE, Fla. — 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 moved one win away from a most improbable trip to the Stanley Cup Final by blanking the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 on Monday night.

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

This marks the 205th time that a team has taken a 3-0 series lead in NHL playoff history. Of the first 204, 200 went on to win the series. The Panthers are 2-0 when taking the first three games of a series; the Hurricanes are 0-5 when dropping the first three.

It wasn’t a perfect night for Florida, however: Captain Aleksander Barkov left with about 7 minutes left in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return, even though the team listed him as questionable.

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

Going back to Game 1 of Round 2 against Toronto, Bobrovsky has not allowed more than two goals in any contest, with 296 saves on 309 shots.


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

It was the first East final game in the Panthers’ current arena — the franchise’s only other time going this deep into the playoffs was 1996, when it played in Miami at a building that was demolished long ago.

It also likely was the first time that they played with the Wanamaker Trophy in attendance. Newly crowned PGA champion Brooks Koepka — a South Florida native and Panthers fan — put on a jersey and brought the big silver cup to the game.

The crowd roared when they saw him displaying the trophy he won Sunday. Of course, there is another silver trophy that Panthers fans would prefer seeing someone in their jersey hoisting before too long. And the eighth-seeded Panthers are only five wins away now, tantalizingly close to the trip to the final – a trip that few could have seen coming after barely making the playoffs and then having to get past a record-setting Boston team in Round 1 and Toronto in Round 2.

A pair of overtime wins in Carolina, with Tkachuk getting the winner both nights, and the win Monday now have Florida on the brink of June hockey.



GOLDEN KNIGHTS-STARS: The Golden Knights certainly know how to rally when they have fallen behind in these NHL playoffs because it has happened so much.

“We’ve got a thick skin,” Vegas Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s veteran guys that know that one goal, getting scored on first, shouldn’t dictate the rest of the game.”

Even though the Knights have trailed in 11 of their 13 games this postseason, including 10 times when the opposing team scored first, they have a 2-0 series lead over Dallas in the Western Conference Final. The Stars, who scored first in both of those road games before losing in overtime, host Game 3 on Tuesday night.

PENGUINS: It appears Kyle Dubas might still be a possibility for the Penguins after all.

Last Monday, after another Toronto Maple Leafs season ended in disappointment, Dubas told Toronto reporters that he would either return as Leafs general manager or sit out the 2023-24 season, citing the emotional toll of the job.

As the week progressed, it looked as if Dubas would be sticking around. The Leafs were prepared to sign him to a contract extension. But in a stunning turn of events, Leafs president of hockey operations Brendan Shanahan announced Friday that Toronto would not bring Dubas back as general manager.


That led to questions about whether Dubas would change his mind and consider joining another franchise. Apparently, the Penguins are curious, too.

The Penguins have reportedly asked the Leafs for permission to interview Dubas, who remains under contract until June 30. According to Sportsnet, the Leafs have granted them permission. We will see where things go from here.

Before all the Dubas drama unfolded up north, Fenway Sports Group had been heading into the final stages of its search for a new head of hockey operations for the Penguins, whether the title would be president or just as GM.

The team is said to have granted second interviews to several candidates. They include Carolina assistant general manager Eric Tulsky, former Arizona GM John Chayka, Tampa Bay assistant GM Mathieu Darche, New Jersey assistant GM Dan MacKinnon and former Penguins executive Jason Karmanos.

But when Dubas shook free from Toronto, the Penguins were wise to try to line up a last-minute interview with him because Dubas checks a lot of boxes.

Dubas, 37, is young but experienced, having spent nine seasons in the Leafs’ front office. Coming from the Leafs, he knows how to work within a mega corporation like Fenway Sports Group. Dubas is analytically inclined, something that strongly appeals to FSG. And he is seen as a creative problem solver.

Sure, his track record in Toronto was not perfect. The Leafs won only one playoff series during his tenure, their first-round victory over the Lightning this spring. And he has been criticized for paying too much for Toronto’s top players.

But his experience and ingenuity might be what the Penguins, who have an aging core and a challenging salary cap situation, need to maneuver their way back into Stanley Cup contention before the end of Sidney Crosby’s career.

We will see what becomes of Pittsburgh’s interest in Dubas and how that impacts the search for a new lead voice in hockey operations. But either way, the Penguins might be in position to announce a hire before the end of the week.

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