That was how long Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final lasted.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers grinded it out for nearly 140 minutes of hockey — the sixth longest game in NHL history — but it was the Panthers who managed to get the winning bounce in the waning seconds of the fourth overtime period Friday morning at PNC Arena.
“It’s the worst way to lose,” said coach Rod Brind’Amour. “There’s no way around it. You’d rather lose in a game where you really didn’t have a chance to win.”
The real storyline of the night though is the play of the netminders. Both players were spectacular. Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen kept his team alive more times you can count, with a final save count of 57.
“He was great,” Brind’Amour said on Andersen’s performance. “They definitely had plenty of chances to score and he kept us in there and gave us a chance. It was a good goalie battle, just unfortunate we didn’t win.”
Panthers’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky really stole the show, battling Andersen as his equal until the end when he squeaked ahead. Bob stopped 63 shots across the seven periods of game action and kept the Hurricanes from taking that Game 1 victory.
The game started off as one would have expected for two teams both coming off of nearly a week of rest. There was a disjointed feeling out process while both teams shook off the rust. Florida managed to get their skates under themselves first, starting to build their game.
“We weren’t bad, they were just really good,” Brind’Amour said on the start. “I thought they were on us.”
However, it was Carolina that struck first.
On a late 5-on-3 power play at the tail end of the first period, Sebastian Aho bided his time and waited for the perfect moment, finally setting up Seth Jarvis cruising through the slot for the early tally. The goal technically came after the first penalty had expired, but Marc Staal hadn’t rejoined the play by the time Jarvis scored.
Then through the second, Carolina just put the full grind onto the Panthers, with a total of five total shots on goal being produced through the first 15 minutes of the period.
But the Cats found life late in the period as first Anthony Duclair laced a perfect pass across to Aleksander Barkov unmarked in the slot and then 2:15 later, Carter Verhaeghe put the Hurricanes’ defense in a blender and then called his own shot.
The third period though is when the Canes finally managed to get their game going. They took it to the Panthers, with wave after wave of their forecheck crashing down and they eventually drew another call.
On the power play, the Hurricanes managed to spring an odd-man rush and it was tic-tac-toe, from Martin Necas to Jarvis across to Stefan Noesen for the equalizer.
Despite ramping up the pressure, the Hurricanes couldn’t get Bobrovsky to break, so the game went to overtime.
And then a second.
And then a third.
And then a fourth.
And then almost a fifth, but Matthew Tkachuk picked off an errant clearing sequence by Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin and found just enough space up top to end the game.
The overtimes had eventually started to resemble a beer league scrimmage with every player seemingly skating through mud, and with the heavy minutes logged by every player, a sequence like that had been happening every few minutes. It’s just that this time the puck went in.
The game had almost ended really quickly as only a few minutes into the first overtime, Ryan Lomberg threw a puck into a wide open cage, but that was because Andersen had been interfered with by Colin White and the goal was called back.
Despite the outcome, the chances had been there both ways, but the bounces just didn’t go Carolina’s way.
Sure Bobrovsky was great, but Carolina hit their fair share of posts too. Aho rang one during regulation and Jarvis went crossbar and down in the first overtime, as close as you can get without scoring.
There were other chances that just went wide or deflected high, but that’s just the nature of a quadruple overtime game. Everyone on the ice was exhausted, both physically and mentally, someone just got lucky enough to end it finally.
“At the end of the day, it’s one game,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ll pick it up tomorrow, obviously let these guys probably stay home and regroup on the next day.”
Now, the key for Game 2 is recovery.
After so much game time, guys will be feeling it in the morning and perhaps the biggest advantage for Saturday’s game will be the team that can recover better.
“It’s just about getting the body right and the mind right and just knowing it’s going to be a long series,” said captain Jordan Staal. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so we’re gonna keep grinding and go from there.”