With a five-point night from Carter Verhaeghe, the Florida Panthers rallied from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Washington Capitals 5-3 and grab a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference first round.
With a five-point night — two goals, three assists — Verhaeghe broke a Panthers franchise playoff record, and the Comeback Cats pulled off yet another comeback, this one clearly the most important of their season. The Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
For the Florida Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves. The Panthers also got goals from Patric Hornqvist, Claude Giroux, and Sam Reinhart, with two assists from Aleksander Barkov. T.J. Oshie had two goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for Washington. 33 shots were blocked by Ilya Samsonov.
Verhaeghe eclipsed Ray Sheppard’s postseason scoring record of four points established on April 22, 1996 – the Panthers’ final and only playoff season. They have a chance to rectify that when Game 6 is played in Washington on Friday. If required, Game 7 will take place on Sunday in Florida.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted to… then we started playing the way we wanted to,” says the team “”Says Barkov.”
After a couple of outstanding plays on both ends, Verhaeghe gave the Panthers the lead for good at 3:04 of the third. He forced a turnover deep in the zone, passed the puck to Barkov, and then run for approximately 100 feet of ice to catch the return pass.
Florida lead 4-3 after Barkov put it on his stick and Verhaeghe scored it. From there, Bobrovsky shut the door, Giroux added an insurance goal at 15:55, and the Comeback Cats had done it once more.
“It felt like we squandered the game, “Nicklas Backstrom of Washington remarked
Florida recorded an NHL-high 29 comeback wins this season. The Panthers won five games after trailing by three goals, including forcing overtime in Game 4 in Washington and tied the series early in the extra session.
The Panthers’ comeback was the biggest in an NHL playoff game since the San Jose Sharks overcame the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 on April 19, 2011. There had been three two-goal deficits in these playoffs as of Wednesday, but no team had ever recovered from a three-goal deficit.
At 7:09 of the first period, Oshie scored the game’s first goal by redirecting the puck. He lined up in the slot, impeding Bobrovsky as much as he could, then modified the flight of a John Carlson shot just enough to get it into the net for a 1-0 Washington lead.
It remained that way until the second period, when Washington appeared to take charge after scoring two goals in a 1:25 span. Schultz found a crease in front of the net among a tangle of bodies and blasted the puck through to make it 2-0, and Oshie made it 3-0 on a 2-on-1 break after Kuznetsov passed him the ball.
The Panthers then did what they do best: rally.