SUNRISE, Fla. — Sergei Bobrovsky had done everything in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals except earn a shutout.
Now he has one of those as well.
The Panthers goalie stopped all 32 shots he faced — and got help from two shots off posts — and Sam Reinhart scored the lone goal on a second period power play to give Florida a 1-0 win over the Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at FLA Live Arena to take a 3-0 series lead.
“It’s been three games. We can’t do much more,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We like how we’re playing, clearly. It’s just we’ve got to find a way to put one in.”
Carolina dominated in every facet of the game. The Hurricanes nearly doubled up the Panthers in shots on goal, 32-17. At 5-on-5, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, shot attempts were 61-22, scoring chances were 31-10 and high-danger chances were 12-3.
None of that mattered as Bobrovsky brushed away shot after shot.
Even the ones that got past him didn’t wind up behind him.
Hurricanes forward Jesper Fast’s tip 64 seconds into the game hit the post. Defenseman Brady Skjei did the same early in the second period, ripping a shot from the left circle and ringing the far side of the crossbar, keeping the score 0-0.
Despite dominating play in the first half of regulation, the Hurricanes were called for three consecutive slashing penalties in a span of 3 minutes and 5 seconds in the second period.
On the first of those power plays, the Panthers got the only goal they’d need.
With Skjei in the box, Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk found Sam Reinhart in the right circle, and he spun and fired a shot over the blocker of Frederik Andersen (16 saves) just seven seconds into the power play to give Florida the game’s only goal at 9:57 of the second period.
The Hurricanes killed off the other two penalties, including 20 seconds of 5-on-3 time, to keep the game within striking distance. Those were the final power plays of the night as Carolina got just one opportunity in the first period for the game.
That included a missed call when the Hurricanes had Andersen on the bench for an extra attacker.
Carolina defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere retrieved the puck from the Hurricanes’ zone and passed to Brett Pesce, but he was then caught with a high stick by Reinhart. Gostisbehere fell to the ice and Pesce’s pass was intercepted by Florida defenseman Marc Staal just inside the Panthers’ blue line.
Staal shot the puck from long range and into the Carolina net, but play was whistled dead.
The officials conferred and ruled they had stopped play because they believed Gostisbehere was injured, not to call a penalty.
Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook received the explanation from the officials on the ice.
“Didn’t see it,” Martinook said of what he was told by the refs. “They should probably be watching where the — yeah, whatever. I’m gonna get fined probably if I say that, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
Brind’Amour took issue with both that missed call and the flurry of slashing penalties in the third period against his team.
“It’s tough for me,” he said. “I could go on all day on that. … The stick to the face I thought he called. He stopped the play. Whatever, that’s not the difference. We’ve gotta score more than one anyway, but that adds to the frustration in the game.”
And the Hurricanes are undoubtedly frustrated after managing just three goals in the series on 135 shots on goal.
“We need to get one by him at some point, and it’s gonna probably be a greasy one off a leg or off a skate,” Martinook said of scoring on Bobrovsky. “But at this point, you just got to get one by him and then you hopefully can get some momentum off that.”
Now Carolina finds itself one game away from its season ending after suffering three straight one-goal losses. In the latest one, the Hurricanes were kept off the board entirely.
“You score no goals, you can’t win a hockey game, right?” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said. “So, it’s simple as that.”
Notes: Panthers center Aleksander Barkov left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. … Bobrovsky improved to 10-2 in the postseason with a .935 save percentage, including an otherworldly .978 in the series. … Andersen has been equally good in the postseason with a .937 save percentage and .948 in his two starts in the series.