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Determined Panthers rally for 3-2 overtime win over desperate Capitals

Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Aleksander Barkov scored the tying goal with 3:30 left in regulation and Gustav Forsling notched the game-winner 3:41 into overtime to give the Florida Panthers an exciting 3-2 comeback victory over the visiting Washington Capitals.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Capitals out-shoot the Cats 8-4, Nick Cousins got the game’s opening goal 4:03 into the second when he deflected Dmitry Kulikov’s rising slapper down and in after Brandon Montour dropped the puck back to the right point. It was Cousins’ first goal since November 6.

Washington would even it up with 1:29 left in frame and Niko Mikkola off for hooking. After getting a return pass from Max Pacioretty, Rasmus Sandin fired a bullet of a cross to Sonny Milano, who sniped Anthony Stolarz from the lower left circle.

The Capitals would convert on another power play midway through the third to take the lead. Tom Wilson tracked down Dylan Strome’s dump-in and then went to the backhand while fending off Mikkola, finding pay dirt after Stolarz’s poke check loosened the puck, which dribbled in five-hole. The second assist on Wilson’s 13th went to John Carlson.

After Evan Rodrigues drew a hooking call on Nick Jensen, Montour would send a return pass to Carter Verhaeghe and he moved in from the blue line and snapped off a wrister that Barkov deflcted over the glove of Charlie Lindgren at the 17:30 mark.

Forsling winner came after Sam Bennett stripped Milano of the puck high in the Florida zone. The Cats rushed the other way 3-on-1 and Bennett sent a beautiful pass by a helpless Strome to Forsling, who ripped the puck past Lindgren to get the Panthers to 80 points. What a finish!

With the win, the Panthers joined the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in the 80-point club, and shaved a point off the Bruins lead in Atlantic Division. The Cats did a good job of sticking with their game after a slow start and grinding out the victory despite a determined effort from the desperate Capitals, who grabbed the lead with 9:49 left in regulation. Florida will continue the three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Stars & Stripes

  • First Star Gustav Forsling’s goal was his first game-winner of the season. In addition to scoring on his only shot on goal, he finished up with four hits (tied with Niko Mikkola for the team-high) and a blocked shot in 18:20 of ice time.
  • Anthony Stolarz made 22 saves to collect his 10th win of the campaign. That’s the 13th game in a row the Panthers have given up two goals or less.
  • Carter Verhaeghe’s assist on Aleksander Barkov’s game-tying goal was his 30th of the season and got him to the 60-point mark for a second straight time. Verhaeghe’s career-high in assists is 31 which he set in 2021-22 and matched last season. That will fall.
  • Undrafted Capitals forward Pierrick Dube made his NHL debut and came close to bagging his first big-league goal, hitting the post on a partial breakaway midway through the second. Dylan Strome also caught iron early in the middle frame.
  • The Cats brought Alex Ovechkin’s ten-game point streak to end in the superstar’s 1,400th career game. Ovechkin registered four shots and four hits in the milestone tilt.
  • For the other side of Florida’s season-series sweep, stop by Japers’ Rink.