Tkachuk FLA Cconfident ahead of GM5

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Matthew Tkachuk, sitting at the podium after a brief morning skate Tuesday, was asked about his play, how he feels about his game in the Stanley Cup Final and what more he could do to help the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup hours later.

Tkachuk took it as an opportunity to offer an expansive answer that included a pseudo prediction for Game 5 against the Edmonton Oilers at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

"Looking forward for hopefully my best game of the series tonight," Tkachuk said. "I thought last game was nowhere near good enough. I'm way better than that. Maybe the last four periods, going back to the third period of Game 3, I can be a lot better. The good part about us is it's not about one guy, it's not about individuals here. We have a chance to capture the biggest goal of our lifetime, so we're [going to] go do that."

It's a stretch to call that a Tkachuk guarantee, but fair to say it's a signal of how high his confidence is in the Panthers and that confidence is obviously not shaken, even though they're coming off their worst loss of the entire season, 8-1 in Game 4 at Rogers Place on Saturday that cut their lead in the best-of-7 series to 3-1.

Before Game 4, the Panthers had not lost by more than four goals at any point in the regular season or Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"You've got to give it to them, they played a really good game," Tkachuk said. "They got on the board early and we were chasing it. They played a really good game, but I think this two-day break [between Games 4 and 5] was really good for us to reset, reevaluate where we're at right now and absolutely enjoy the position we're in. 

"Couldn't have dreamed of a better spot beginning of the year, beginning of the playoffs, beginning of the series. The chance to win it at home tonight is very special to us."

Myers, Van Diest, Zeisberger preview Gm5 of the SCF

Tkachuk wants to make the most of the moment. The bar he'll have to clear to play his best game isn't as high as he'd like it to be. He has been held to one point in the series, an assist on Sam Bennett's goal in Game 3, and has scored one goal in 15 games since May 8. His last goal was Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on May 22. His assist in Game 3 was his only point in the past six games.

He is, however, still second on the Panthers with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in the playoffs behind captain Aleksander Barkov's 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists).

"He's been good," Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of Tkachuk. "You become desensitized possibly by [Connor] McDavid and [Leon] Draisaitl, and we've got stars too, but it's not going to be flashy every shift of his game. The inside play that he makes to Bennett on the goal is an incredible play. I don't expect that every time he touches the puck. Both teams have really good players. Both teams' power plays have been quiet and that's why both teams star players numbers are what they are. He's very close leading our team in scoring. We just need solid out of each guy. That's what we're looking for."

The Panthers didn't get that in Game 4, but they feel they learned something important from that experience, their first trying to win the Stanley Cup.

"I mean, arguably last game was maybe good for us to kind of settle ourselves down and realize we're in a series," defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "We'll just try to channel that energy the right way this time and find a way to get it done.

"Try to find a way to win a game tonight, not put so much pressure on ourselves."

Ekblad said the Panthers did put too much pressure on themselves going into Game 4 because they knew they could win it that night.

"I don't think it's possible to not put pressure on yourself," he said.

He said the pressure now isn't the same, even though the situation is.

"It feels different today," he said. "It just feels like another hockey game. Go play it and play it to our absolute best effort and best ability."

Or, as Tkachuk said, lay it all on the line for the dream.

"We come into Game 5 not thinking that we lost Game 4, but that this is an opportunity to win it all," Tkachuk said. "You leave everything out there. Play our defensive style first, don't give them anything easy, and try to come out of there with a win tonight for our childhood goal."