NYR@FLA, ECF Gm6: Panthers defeat Rangers for Eastern Conference Final win

The Florida Panthers decided to do something different this season when they were presented with the Prince of Wales Trophy, and they are hoping it pays off.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented the trophy to captain Aleksander Barkov following a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, on Saturday. Barkov did not touch the trophy before he and his teammates posed for photos with it.

“We touched it last year and it didn’t work for us,” forward Sam Bennett said. “So, we thought we'd try something different this year.”

Last season, the Panthers touched and skated around with the trophy, with forward Matthew Tkachuk saying: "The last thing that we're going to do is be superstitious about not touching it. Like, nobody said we were even going to make the playoffs. I think it's pretty cool to touch it, carry it around and take pictures with it. We earned that thing."

However, Florida would then lose in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup Final.

At the end of the game Saturday, it appeared coach Paul Maurice had told Barkov on the bench not to touch the trophy.

“He also told me last year (not to touch it),” Barkov said afterward. "Last year we had a different situation, but we’re not going to talk about last year. This year, I think we all agreed we were not going to touch it."

When told that Barkov revealed he had defied him a year ago when it came to touching the trophy, Maurice said: "I think 'Sasha' has a pretty good sense of humor. Actually I don’t remember. All I know is there a picture somewhere here of him carrying it down the hallway, so at that point I had to say I told him to, right? It has nothing to do with anything, but we play our silly games."

In 1996, the only other time the Panthers won the Prince of Wales Trophy, captain Brian Skrudland lifted the trophy. The Panthers were then swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Cup Final.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the trophy from 2020-22, touched it all three times but were defeated in the Cup Final by the Avalanche in six games in 2022. Prior to that, they won the Cup in 2020 against the Dallas Stars and in 2021 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Recent history does not appear to be on the Panthers’ side. Five of the past eight teams to win the Cup have touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. Prior to 2020, Sidney Crosby touched it in 2016 and in 2017 before helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Cup each season, and Alex Ovechkin did the same in 2018 with the Washington Capitals, who won the Cup.

The tradition of not touching the Prince of Wales Trophy hasn't worked out well for the Eastern Conference champion in recent seasons. The 2011 Boston Bruins are the most recent team to win the Cup after choosing not to touch it. The past five teams to not do so lost in the Cup Final.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did not touch the trophy in 2019, and Boston lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games in the Cup Final. The New Jersey Devils (2012), Bruins (2013), Rangers (2014) and Lightning (2015) all lost in the Cup Final after refusing to touch the trophy.

Because of temporary divisional realignment due to COVID-19 in 2020-21, the third round of the playoffs was renamed the Stanley Cup Semifinals instead of the conference finals. The Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the Lightning after they defeated the New York Islanders in seven games.

The Prince of Wales Trophy has been awarded to the Eastern Conference champion since the 1993-94 season.

Florida will play the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins June 8.

NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin and independent correspondent George Richards contributed to this report

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