Carter Verhaeghe’s goal 2:46 into overtime gave the Florida Panthers a series-clinching 4-3 victory over the host Washington Capitals in Game 6 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
Coming off a franchise-record and NHL-high 122 points in the regular season, Florida won its first postseason series since the 1996 Eastern Conference finals, the longest playoff drought of any team in the NHL.
After losing their last seven postseason series, the Panthers are headed to the second round to face the winner of the series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Verhaeghe also scored the overtime winner in Game 4, adding to a spectacular series for the Panthers forward. With a goal and an assist in Game 6, Verhaeghe led all players with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the series.
Verhaeghe was a game-time decision to even take the ice in Game 6, after missing the morning skate with an undisclosed injury.
Claude Giroux had a goal and two assists, fueling the Panthers’ third consecutive comeback win. With the Capitals leading 2-1 through 48 minutes of play, Giroux equalized at 8:18 of the third period, then recorded helpers on both Aleksander Barkov’s go-ahead goal and Verhaeghe’s overtime winner.
Ryan Lomberg scored the Panthers’ other goal. Lomberg was making his first appearance in the lineup since Game 1.
Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 34 of 37 shots for his 17th career playoff victory.
Nic Dowd, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie all scored for Washington, with all three players coming close to hero status. Dowd hit two posts in the third period, Backstrom’s third-period goal gave the Capitals the lead, and Oshie forced overtime with a power-play marker with 63 seconds left in regulation.
The Panthers won the series despite Washington’s domination of the special teams battle. Florida was 0-for-18 on the power play during the series, while the Capitals were 7-for-24 with the extra attacker.
Since winning the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals have been eliminated in the first round in each of the last four seasons.
Ilya Samsonsov stopped 27 of 31 shots for the Capitals.