NEW YORK – Matthew Tkachuk was born for big moments.

The stage and bright lights don’t get much bigger than Madison Square Garden in the Eastern Conference Final.

In a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday night, Tkachuk netted the game-winning goal and a helper on Sam Bennett’s empty-netter that sealed the game for the Florida Panthers.

“He played great,” said goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who recorded his second-career playoff shutout. “He read the game very well. He was on top of the puck all the time. He's a special player, and we're happy to have him on our side.”

Registering three hits, including a massive full-body check on Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck, it was Tkachuk’s physical style of play that started the momentum swing in the first period for the Panthers.

“I think it started with his big hit in the first,” said forward Carter Verhaeghe. “Then the big goal, I mean, it definitely got us going and it took a lot of momentum out of their sails. I think anytime you're on the road and you can get the first goal, you take the crowd out of it a little bit. We like playing with the lead and it kind of lets us settle down into our game. The goal, hit, and everything was huge. Chucky (Tkachuk) was awesome.”

Tkachuk makes it 1-0 in the first period.

In many ways, Tkachuk’s stellar play has carried over from last year’s Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, a quick series the Panthers swept in four games to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Per NHL Stats, Tkachuk became the first player in NHL history with four game-winning goals through his first five games of a Conference Final after having scored three of them against the Hurricanes last year.

Through the first five Eastern Conference Final games of his career, No. 19 has notched five goals – two of them coming in overtime -- seven points and 13 hits while helping the Panthers secure a 5-0 record.

“He's a leader,” said captain Aleksander Barkov. “He's a true leader on this team and does everything that he can. Today it was a good example of that, the tone, physicality, made some plays, and did whatever he does at his best. We just follow his lead.”

Leading the way, Tkachuk has either scored or assisted in the last five game-winning goals of the last two Eastern Conference Finals for the Panthers.

That being said, the superstar winger isn’t worried about his own highlight-reel goals or points.

There is only one objective.

“I don't put any pressure on myself to score or produce offense,” said Tkachuk. “I guess that's a big part of my game, but at the end of the day, it's not about myself here. There's a way bigger goal ahead. Guys on our team that didn't score tonight, were some of our best players. It could be somebody different each and every night. There is so much buy-in from everybody, that nobody cares who's producing, who's doing whatever, who's doing the hitting. At the end of the day, we're here for wins. That's it.”

Speaking of wins, the Panthers will try to take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final when they return to Madison Square Garden to battle the Rangers in Game 2 on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

Stay tuned to for information on upcoming watch parties.

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