NEW YORK -- The Florida Panthers made themselves right at home at Madison Square Garden.

The visitors turned Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers into the type of contest they wanted to play. Tight-checking, low-event hockey ruled the night, dulling a braying crowd that tried to will the home team to an opening win in a third straight series.

“Coming in here to a hostile environment, playing against the best team in the League, it’s stacked up against you pretty good, in Game 1 especially,” Florida forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “I don’t know, we took that as motivation this morning to come out and play strong.”

The result was a 3-0 victory for the Panthers on Wednesday and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Now the Panthers get to dictate who has to change their approach in Game 2 here on Friday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ESPN, SN, TVAS, CBC). The winner of Game 1 in a best-of-7 round before the Stanley Cup Final holds an all-time series record of 112-53 (.679).

Nobody is more comfortable in uncomfortable situations than Tkachuk. 

He’s a big part why the Panthers are 5-1 on the road this postseason and were 8-4 last postseason in a run to the Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

Tkachuk relishes in playing the villain and, in the process, bringing his team into the fight.

It’s who he has been since he arrived in Florida in a trade from the Calgary Flames before last season.

It’s who he was in Game 1.

Tkachuk pasted Rangers forward Vincent Trocheck with the game’s first hit at 1:19 of the first period. Then he scored the game’s first goal, a surprising flick of his wrists from just above the left circle that found its way through traffic and surprised Igor Shesterkin at 16:26 of the first.

“Start with his big hit and then he got a goal; it got us going a bit;” said Florida forward Carter Verhaeghe, who was credited with the second goal when his centering pass bounced off the stick of Rangers forward Alexis Lafrenière and past Shesterkin at 16:12 of the third. “It took a lot of momentum out of their sails. I think any time you are on the road and you can get the first goal, I think you take the crowd out of it a little bit. We like playing with the lead and it lets us settle down into our game.”

FLA@NYR ECF, Gm1: Tkachuk scores the game's opening goal

The Panthers have won their past five conference final games, scoring first in each of the past three.

Once the lead was established, they put a vise to the game, turning the neutral zone into a quagmire and not letting the high-powered Rangers gain the attacking blue line with speed. The Rangers had five shots in the first period and seven in the second.

In the third the Rangers pushed a bit, finishing with 11 shots.

With a little more than seven minutes left, the Rangers had their best chances. Defenseman Jacob Trouba started the sequence with an open-ice hit on Kevin Stenlund that forced a turnover, started the transition game and saw the Rangers have back-to-back shots by Alex Wennberg on Sergei Bobrovsky, have another blocked, and end with Lafrenière hitting the post.

Bobrovsky finished with 23 saves for his second playoff shutout. He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of the past six games.

“He’s unbelievable, he’s an elite goaltender in this League,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He works so hard every day and I’m not surprised. He can do whatever it takes every single night to give us a chance to win the game.”

The list of helpers Wednesday might be long, but there was one driver and it was, without question, Tkachuk.

He has played in five conference final games with the Panthers and he has five goals. He had four in a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes last season. The Panthers won each of those four games by a goal. Two went into overtime. Tkachuk had three game-winners.

In this Game 1, he had another. He added an assist, had three hits and blocked two shots.

Panthers take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final

He is the first player in NHL history with four game-winning goals through his first five career games during the round before the Stanley Cup Final, besting Rick Middleton, Gordie Drillon and Billy Boucher, each of whom had three in five games played.

“’Chucky’ was awesome,” Verhaeghe said.

Actually, Tkachuk was who he is, a supremely talented, multifaceted star who never finds the stage too big or the lights too bright.

“For him, our team, the players have almost come to expect it, so it’s not necessarily a huge boost, ‘Oh my god, Matthew scored a goal,’” coach Paul Maurice said. “For him, that just gets him cooking.”

When it was over, Tkachuk wanted to look forward.

He said he knows the Panthers will have to be better to have a chance to go home with a 2-0 lead in this series. That’s the message he wanted heard.

Forget the personal accolades for him, or anyone else.

“We are here for wins, that it,” Tkachuk said.