Panthers’ Tkachuk reacts to Rangers’ Kreider throwing his mouth guard: ‘Best play he made’

Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) competes for the puck against New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) in the third period of Game 4 during the Eastern Conference finals of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs at the Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.

Matthew Tkachuk can laugh about it now. Actually, he was laughing about it a little bit in the moment, too.

After a scrum early in the third period of the Florida Panthers’ eventual 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday, Rangers forward Chris Kreider grabbed Tkachuk’s mouth guard and attempted to throw it into the crowd.

The guard didn’t go over the netting, however, which actually worked in Kreider’s favor considering he would have received a game misconduct if it had gone over.

“I told him that was the best play he made all game,” Tkachuk said Wednesday. “I don’t know. I guess it’s just all game-within-the-game stuff from their side and then from our side. At the end of the day, it’s not the first time that’s happened actually. Normally, they just give it back. The last time, they took it in and threw it right back at me. This time was a little bit different, but it is what it is. Game-within-the-game. Playoffs. Gotta love it.”

Tkachuk said he usually only has one mouth guard on hand per game, although he added a few extras have ben made for the playoffs.

“Luckily, it didn’t go over the stands and he just threw it up in the air,” Tkachuk said. “Had to wash it off and use it.”

Through Tuesday’s game, Tkachuk has a team-leading 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) so far this postseason. He has five points (one goal, four assists) through four games of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers.

Game 5 of the best-of-7 series, which is tied 2-2, is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday at New York’s Madison Square Garden.