The Florida Panthers ended an uncomfortable 24-season streak without reaching the second round of the National League playoffs Friday in Washington. They defeated the Capitals in Game 6 of their series 4-3 in overtime, eliminating their opponents in the process.
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This is only the second time in franchise history that the Panthers have reached the first round. The organization that entered the Bettman Circuit in 1993 had accomplished the feat in 1996 as well. She had even reached the Stanley Cup finals back then.
It was Carter Verhaeghe who finally freed his people. He used a throw from Claude Giroux in front of Ilya Samsonov’s net before thwarting it with a backhand shot.
The decisive scorer also threatened to miss this match after collecting five points in the fifth duel. After his team’s morning practice session, head coach Andrew Brunette said that Verhaeghe was suffering from an undisclosed injury and that his case would be re-evaluated during the warm-up session. His presence ultimately mattered as he ended the first half with six goals and as many assists.
The Panthers must now wait before knowing their opponent’s identity in the next round. They face off against the winner of the ultimate game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Post by Giroux
Giroux, acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers a day before the close, eventually played a major role in this crucial duel.
Towards the end of the third period, he was also partly to blame in the net of Aleksander Barkov, who gave the visitors a 3-2 lead. He was also the one who leveled the game at 2-2 with a shot between Samsonov’s pads almost six minutes before Barkov’s success.
Delay the inevitable
The Capitals were looking under the regular 60-minute rule when Gustav Forsling was awarded a penalty with 69 seconds remaining. Just six seconds later, TJ Oshie took advantage of a bouncing puck to cause hysteria at Capital One Arena.
Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd also finished as crowd favourites.