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Tkachuk believes win over Vegas would complete 'hardest road' to Cup

Claus Andersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Matthew Tkachuk acknowledged the Florida Panthers' difficult path to the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Saturday's Game 1 clash against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"For us to knock off this juggernaut in Vegas, it would probably be the hardest road to the Stanley Cup in history," Tkachuk said, according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan. "So that's our goal, to knock off this team and see if we can make history."

The Panthers snuck into the playoffs as the second wild-card team in the Eastern Conference by one point. In the opening round, Florida stunned a Boston Bruins team that broke the NHL record for regular-season points. The Panthers then made quick work of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round before sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference final.

Boston was the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Carolina was No. 2, and Toronto was No. 4, making the trio of teams the most difficult path possible for the Panthers. Up next: the No. 1 seed out of the Western Conference, the Vegas Golden Knights.

Should Florida knock off Vegas in the final, the Panthers would become the third team to beat four 100-point clubs on the road to a Stanley Cup victory, joining the 2007 Anaheim Ducks and 2015 Chicago Blackhawks. Florida would be the first to accomplish the feat without being a 100-point team itself.

"A lot of talk has been made about us, and our path, and the eight-seed, and limping in and all that, which is completely understandable," Tkachuk added. "It motivates us, I guess, to a certain extent."

Tkachuk has taken the postseason by storm. He's tallied three overtime winners - including two in the conference final, as well as the series-clinching goal in the dying seconds of Game 4 - and is second in playoff scoring with 21 points in 16 games.

The Stanley Cup Final begins Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in Las Vegas.

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