Panthers reveal nasty injuries suffered by stars Tkachuk, Ekblad during Stanley Cup playoffs

Tkachuk was held out of the lineup for Game 5, while Ekblad played through a laundry list of injuries suffered at various points in the postseason.

The Florida Panthers did not have the same firepower up front without Matthew Tkachuk in the lineup for their season-ending loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday. It turns out one of their best defensemen was dealing with some major injuries, too.

Tkachuk was ruled out for Game 5 with what was deemed to be an "upper-body injury," but according to multiple reports following Florida’s loss, the Panthers star forward had suffered a broken sternum. Paul Maurice confirmed his franchise winger sustained the injury in Game 3, and said he was among four Florida players dealing with significant ailments.

One of those players, star defenseman Aaron Ekblad, suffered a laundry list of injuries this postseason, including a broken foot sustained way back in the first-round Bruins series, two separate shoulder dislocations and a torn oblique.

Ekblad, almost unbelievably, logged over 21 minutes of ice time in Game 5 and scored the Panthers' opening goal.

Tkachuk, who was unable to practice on Monday, was somehow able to play through the sternum injury in Game 4, being limited to just 16:40 of ice time in the loss. He managed four shots on goal, but was clearly laboring — mainly using his right hand to control his stick — and could only play four shifts in the third period.

Maurice said Tkachuk needed assistance getting dressed for that contest, while ESPN's John Buccigross reported Tkachuk's brother, Brady, helped him get out of bed following a pre-game nap.

Panthers stars Matthew Tkachuk and Aaron Ekblad grinded through some wild injuries this postseason. (Getty)
Panthers stars Matthew Tkachuk and Aaron Ekblad grinded through some wild injuries this postseason. (Getty)

"He's a top player in this league," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov told reporters before Tuesday’s game. "He's a huge player for our team. No matter what, I think everyone has to step up a little bit and play a little better than we've been."

It's unclear exactly when Tkachuk's injury occurred, but the 25-year-old was initially removed from Game 3 by the league’s concussion spotter after taking a big hit from Vegas forward Keegan Kolesar.

He was, however, able to return to the game after clearing protocol and scored the game-tying goal before the Panthers’ overtime victory.

Tkachuk led the Panthers with 11 goals and 13 assists in 20 games this postseason. He posted four game-winning goals throughout the playoffs, with three of them coming in overtime.

Forward Grigori Denisenko replaced Tkachuk in the lineup for Florida on Tuesday. He was minus-3 in just 5:57 minutes of play with no shots on goal.

The injuries apparently didn't stop at Ekblad and Tkachuk, either, as it was revealed that Panthers blueliner Radko Gudas played through a high-ankle sprain sustained in Game 1 of the Cup final. Gudas also missed time in Game 2 after taking a monster hit from Knights forward Ivan Barbashev.

Forward Sam Bennett, meanwhile, sustained an upper-body injury against the Maple Leafs in Round 2 that limited his range of motion according to Florida's head coach.

"It is not an excuse," Maurice said after Game 5. "They don't need one. These guys earned the right. They gave everything they had."