Carter Verhaeghe scored two goals, including the game-winner, and drew the primary assist on three others in a tour de force performance to lead the Florida Panthers to an exhilarating 5-3 comeback victory over the Washington Capitals.
After allowing an unattended T.J. Oshie to deflect in his fourth of the series on a first period power play, the Cats found themselves down by three early in the middle frame.
Aaron Ekblad and Sergei Bobrovsky failed to work together to get a puck covered and Justin Schultz took advantage of the miscue and lifted the loose disk into the net at 2:13.
Oshie would convert Evgeny Kuznetsov’s crossing pass on a 2-on-1 break 1:25 later for his second of the night and things were looking more than a little grim for the home team.
Verhaeghe turned the tide at 6:50 when he deftly jammed in a rebound off the back boards after Aleksander Barkov’s wrist shot missed (perhaps, purposely) wide. Claude Giroux, who had moved up to take an invisible Anthony Duclair’s place on the top line, picked up the second helper.
After John Carlson badly whiffed on a shot attempt, Verhaeghe accelerated to claim the loose puck and sprung Patric Hornqvist on a breakaway that culminated with the grizzled veteran snapping a shot over Ilya Samonsov’s glove, halving the deficit at the 12:27 mark.
The Panthers kept the pressure up and tied the tilt 2:14 later when Sam Reinhart jabbed in the rebound after Samsonov made a save on Verhaeghe from in close. After taking a pass from Sam Bennett, the former Bolt did some fine work down low before passing behind the net to Reinhart and zipping towards the goal mouth.
Florida would forge ahead 3:04 into the third, thanks to who else? I think you know where this is going,.. A backchecking Verhaeghe stripped the puck from Dmitry Orlov, head-manned to Barkov and then turned on the jets to catch up and then pass his patient captain, who delivered a pretty little saucer pass that was lifted by a beleaguered Samsonov. Just an incredible effort on both ends of the ice.
Verhaeghe set a new franchise playoff record for points in a game when he took a pass from Gustav Forsling and led a 3-on-1 break up the ice. He crossed over to Giroux, who went backhand to forehand before calmly sliding the puck over the goal line with Samsonov left for dead for the insurance marker with 4:05 left in regulation.
After giving up three goals on Washington first 13 shots, Bobrovsky would finish strong, stopping the last 20 shots he faced as the Panthers dominated much of the final 36 minutes of play in dominate and electrifying fashion. That was what we have been waiting for!
The Panthers have set the table for their first series win in 26 years on Friday in the nation’s capital.
Stars & Gripes
- Carter Verhaeghe produced five points in a game for the first time in his NHL career. What a time to do it. The game’s First Star is tied with Cale Makar for the league lead in scoring with 10 points. Makar has played one less game.
- Patric Hornqvist’s uplifting breakaway goal was the first time he’s lit the lamp since April 8. Hornqvist registered four shots on goal and was credited with one hit and one block.
- One player who didn’t end his cold spell was Anthony Duclair. No shots, hits or blocks for the icy Duke in another disappointing playoff outing. While we’re on chilly, Jonathan Huberdeau hit the post on a potential empty-netter, leading to a lot of late pressure from the Capitals.
- After being difficult to crack in much of his first seven periods of action against the Panthers, Ilya Samonsov has surrendered seven goals in the last 67:01 of game play. This is encouraging...
- Washington has scored 16 goals in the series and T.J. Oshie has five of them, with three coming on the power play. Oshie is tied with Alex Ovechkin, who has been held to just one goal, for the other team lead in scoring with six points.
- With Mason Marchment out, Andrew Brunette unleased the Mamimal and Maxim Mamin provided a bit of jolt. Mamin registered two shots and a hit in his first career playoff game.
- For the sadder side of Florida’s glorious comeback head over to Japers’ Rink.