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Tkachuk returns after taking big hit from Kolesar

David Becker / National Hockey League / Getty

Florida Panthers superstar Matthew Tkachuk was able to return to Game 3 after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar forced him to exit in the first period.

He wasn't on the bench to start the middle frame of Thursday's clash, but he checked back into the game just over four minutes into the stanza.

Tkachuk didn't head down the tunnel immediately after the hit from Kolesar - he stayed out for one shift on the power play after Vegas forward William Carrier went off for high-sticking Sam Bennett.

Panthers head coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the game that Tkachuk was removed by the league's concussion spotter but was able to return after clearing protocol.

Here's another look at the collision:

Tkachuk didn't seem to be too hindered by the hit. He netted the game-tying goal with 2:13 remaining in regulation to force overtime before Carter Verhaeghe scored the winner in the extra frame as Florida cut Vegas' series lead to 2-1.

When asked what it took for him to return to the contest, Tkachuk kept it short and sweet.

"Stanley Cup Final. That's it," he said after his side's 3-2 victory, per Sportsnet.

Tkachuk leads the Cardiac Cats with 24 points in 19 games, staking his claim as a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Tkachuk forced Jack Eichel to briefly leave Monday's Game 2 after leveling him with a huge hit, but the Golden Knights star said he had no issue with the contact.

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