Sunrise, Florida – Carter Verhager sets a Florida playoff record on a five-point night as the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 from a three-goal deficit Leading 3-2 in the Eastern Conference — Wednesday night’s round series.
Sergey Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for Florida, which trailed 3-0 in the second quarter. Verhaeghe scored two goals and three assists for the Panthers.
Patric Hornqvist, Claude Giroux and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov had two assists.
TJ Oshie scored twice for Washington, which also had a goal from Justin Schultz and two assists from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ilya Samsonov stopped 33 shots.
Verhaeghe broke the Panthers’ playoff scoring record set by Ray Sheppard on a four-point night on April 22, 1996 — still the last and only season in which the Panthers won a playoff series.
They could change that Friday, Game 6 in Washington. If necessary, Game 7 will return to Florida on Sunday.
Verhaeghe gave the Panthers the only lead at 3:04 of the third quarter, after a pair of fantastic plays on both ends. He created a turnover deep in the box, passed the puck to Barkov, and then sprinted about 100 feet across the ice to find a spot to pick up the pass.
Balkov hung the ball on the stick and Werhager netted it, giving Florida a 4-3 lead. From there, Bobrovsky slammed the door, Giroux scored a safety goal at 15:55, and the Comeback Cats did it again.
It was a comeback season for Florida State, with an NHL-best 29 trailing wins in the regular season. The Panthers won five games after trailing by three goals and rallied late in Game 4 to force Washington into overtime before winning early in overtime to tie the series.
Florida’s rebound was the largest in the NHL playoffs since April 19, 2011, when the San Jose Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 by four goals. There have been three two-ball losses in these playoffs heading into Wednesday, but none have managed to dig out of the three-ball hole.
The last time Florida went 3-2 in a series was a decade ago, in the first round against New Jersey in 2012. The Panthers lost Games 6 and 7, the final game in double overtime at home — part of a 26-year-long and untold drought that has plagued the franchise.
This team was formed to change destiny. It didn’t look good on that front in the first half of Wednesday.
Oshie started scoring at 7:09 of the first game, doing what he could do best – redirecting. He set up in the slot, did everything he could to block Bobrovsky, and then changed John Carlson’s shot just enough to give Washington a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the second quarter, when two goals at 1:25 looked to give Washington full control. Schultz found a crease in the maze in front of the net and punched the puck to make it 2-0, with Osh completing a Kuznetsov pass in a 2-1 break to put The score was rewritten to 3-0.
That’s when the Panthers did what they do best – rally.
With 7:51 left, Florida State started from a three-point deficit and had huge trouble heading into the third inning. Verhaeghe watched as the puck fell off the end plate and hit the ball to put Florida State on the scoreboard. Hornquist crossed Samsonov’s glove on a breakout and Reinhardt equalized. He made it 3-3 after picking up a loose puck on the edge of the crease and knocking it into the net.
The Capitals are 20-1-0 in games with at least three goals at any point this season, including the playoffs. One loss — on Nov. 30, when a 4-1 lead entered the third quarter, it turned into a 5-4 loss.
The opponent that night? That would be the Florida Panthers.
Florida is 0-for-3 in power play, and the Panthers are 0-for-16 in the series this season, 3-for-26 against the Capitals. … Florida State’s longest regular-season game without a power game goal was seven Nov. 8-20. The Panthers have at least one man-centred goal in six of the final seven games of the season, but remain blank for the first five games of the series. … Oshie had the sixth multi-target playoff game of his career.
Game 6 is Friday in Washington.
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