Panthers do it again, rally to top Capitals in Game 5
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Carter Verhaeghe set a Florida postseason record with a five-point night, and the Florida Panthers escaped a three-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 and take a 3-2 lead in an Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for Florida, which trailed 3-0 in the second period. Verhaeghe scored two goals and provided three assists for the Panthers.
Patric Hornqvist, Claude Giroux and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov had two assists.
T.J. Oshie scored twice in Washington’s win, which also received a goal by Justin Schultz and two assists by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ilya Samsonov stopped 33 shots.
Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) scores a goal against Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov (30) during the third period of Game 5 of the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Wednesday, May 11, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Verhaeghe broke the Panthers’ playoff scoring record that Ray Sheppard set on a four-point night back on April 22, 1996 — which remains the last, and only, season in which the Panthers won a playoff series. They can change that Friday when Game 6 takes place in Washington. Game 7 would be played in Florida on Sunday, if necessary.
Verhaeghe gave the Panthers their only lead at 3: 04 of the third, after a pair of marvelous plays at both ends. He created a turnover deep in the zone, sent the puck to Barkov and then went into a full sprint for about 100 feet of ice to find a spot to receive the return pass. Florida led 4-3 with
Barkov putting it on his stick. Verhaeghe scored the goal. Bobrovsky slammed the door from there, Giroux scored the insurance goal at 15: 55, and the Comeback Cats had done it again.
This was the season of the comeback for Florida, which had an NHL-best 29 come-from-behind wins during the regular season. After trailing by three goals, the Panthers won five games and then rallied in Game 4 to force overtime in Washington. They tied the series with a tie in the extra session.
Florida’s rally matched the largest in an NHL playoff game since April 19, 2011, when the San Jose Sharks erased a four-goal deficit to beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-5. Three two-goal deficits existed in these playoffs, but no one had managed to dig out of a three goal hole.
Florida’s last 3-2 series lead was a decade ago, the 2012 first round against New Jersey. The Panthers lost Games 6 and 7, the finale at home in double overtime — part of the 26-years-and-counting drought that has dogged this franchise. This team was formed to turn around the fortunes. It didn’t look great on Wednesday’s first half.
Oshie opened the scoring at 7: 09 of the first, doing what he probably does best — redirection. He set up in the slot and blocked Bobrovsky as best as he could. After changing the flight of John Carlson’s shot, Washington took a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the second, when two goals in a span of 1: 25 looked to give Washington full control. Schultz found a crease in a maze of bodies and blasted through the puck to make it 2:02. Oshie completed Kuznetsov’s pass on a 2-on-1 break to make the score 3-0. And that’s when the Panthers did their best thing — rallied.
In a span of 7: 51, Florida went from down three and in huge trouble to tied going into the third. Verhaeghe sat on the end boards, watched the puck leave the boards, and then batted it in to get Florida back on the scoreboard. Hornqvist smashed Samsonov’s glove during a breakaway. Reinhart scored the equalizer. He grabbed a loose puck from the crease and tapped the puck into the back of his net to make it 3-3.
The Capitals were 20-1-0 in games when they led by at least three goals at any point this season, including playoffs. The one loss — Nov. 30, when a 4-1 lead going into the third became a 5-4 loss.
Who was the opponent that night? The Florida Panthers would be their opponent.
Florida went 0 for 3 on the power play, dropping the Panthers to 0 for 16 in the series and 3 for 26 against the Capitals this season. … Florida’s longest stretch of games in the regular season without a power-play goal was seven, from Nov. 8-20. In six of the seven final games of the regular season, the Panthers scored at least one man advantage goal. However, they were blanked in the first five games this series. Oshie scored six goals in the sixth playoff game of his professional career.
Game 6 is Friday in Washington.
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