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BOSTON -- Nothing Aleksander Barkov did in the Florida Panthers' 2-1 series-clinching victory against the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Friday will impact who the winner of the Selke Trophy will be when it's announced Saturday. The voting was completed before the Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

But Barkov's game-saving blocked shot on David Pastrnak with 2:59 remaining encapsulated why he may win the award as the NHL's top defensive forward a second time, and what was needed for the Panthers to eliminate the Bruins in this grind-it-out battle of a best-of-7 series.

With the score tied 1-1 and the Bruins on the power play, Jake DeBrusk passed the puck back to Charlie McAvoy at the point and McAvoy skated down the slot toward the net looking like he was going shoot before passing to Pastrnak in the left circle. Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was almost frozen in the crease preparing for McAvoy to shoot, so he was not in position to make a save as Pastrnak wound up to one-time McAvoy's shot.

But Barkov was in perfect position and made himself as big as possible, kneeling down with his right leg while sticking out his left one with his left hand next it. Pastrnak's shot hit Barkov in the left palm of his glove and dropped to his left. Barkov then got up, found the loose puck, and backhanded it down the ice to help Florida kill off the rest of Boston's power play.

"He saved the game there, to be honest," Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling said. "He made a great read. Just another amazing play by him. He seems to do it every game."

FLA@BOS R2, Gm6: Forsling buries go-ahead goal off the rebound

Forsling scored the winning goal 1:26 later by knocking in the rebound of Anton Lundell's initial shot with 1:33 left in the third period, and the Panthers were on their way to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season and a date with the New York Rangers.

"It's obviously amazing," Barkov said. "Boston was a very tough series. They're an unbelievable team, so, of course, that win means a lot."

Barkov had his fingerprints all over the series, leading the Panthers with eight points (three goals, five assists). He had four points (two goals, two assists), including the winning goal, in their 6-1 victory in Game 2, and two assists in their 6-2 win in Game 3, before scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 victory in Game 4.

Coach Paul Maurice said Barkov was "fantastic" again in Game 5, but it was unnoticed because Florida lost 2-1, and then he followed up with another complete performance, including his goal-saving block in the final minutes Friday.

"I don't really even have words for what he's doing for our team right now," Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "He's playing the best hockey in the world right now. He's the best player in the world right now. Both ends of the ice, he's been unbelievable. That shot block just shows you too. He's scored all the goals. He's made the great plays this series. He had the puck the whole series.

"But I think that shot block shows the completion of his game. Saved a goal. Saved a game. Now, we're on to the Big Apple."

FLA@BOS R2, Gm6: Barkov blocks the shot by Pastrnak late in the 3rd

Barkov is a finalist for the Selke Trophy for the third time in four seasons, including winning the award in 2020-21, because of plays like that and more. He led Florida's forwards in playing 22:52 Friday, had three shots on goal and two shot blocks. None more important than the one on Pastrnak.

Maurice talked about the rollercoaster of emotions that began with the seeing the puck heading toward Pastrnak with plenty of net for him to shoot at, the elation of watching Barkov block the shot and then the immediate concern that Barkov might be injured when he went to the locker room after he got back to the bench.

"You want to talk about the highs and lows of emotions on the bench," Maurice said. "That's a gaping net and a legitimate block. And then, 'Oh my God, did he break something?' He's off the bench, and you don't hear anything. So, at that point, he makes the block, and we ended up scoring the goal, it's a little bit of chaos down there. … And here comes back and then he's fine."

Barkov said he was OK afterward and, typically, humbly downplayed his block -- one of 23 the Panthers made in the game.

"I think any blocked shot in the playoffs especially, they're big," he said. "So, our guys sacrifice everything for that. It's fun to watch and fun to be a part of this team."

The Panthers had other heroes in the victory. Forsling scoring the winning goal. Lundell scoring the goal that tied the score at 1-1 at 12:44 of the second and assisting on Forsling winner. Bobrovsky making 22 saves, several of them on high-danger chances, including Pastrnak's breakaway 22 seconds into the second period.

But it's clear Florida is following Barkov's lead in its bid to become the first team to return to the Stanley Cup Final after losing in it the previous season since the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 Cup Final and defeated the Red Wings in 2009 to win the Cup.

"He does lots of things that most of the people don't see," Bobrovsky said. "He's so pro, and he's an elite, elite player not only offensively, but defensively in how he reads the game. He probably has the highest IQ in hockey."

If Florida, which lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup Final last season, is to win the Cup for the first time, Barkov will likely have his finger prints all over that as well.

"Man is he a powerful, dominant man," Maurice said. "He plays a different game now than he's ever played. He was so good at both ends, so, hopefully, he's the guy."

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