WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — This time on the wrong side of a comeback attempt, the Florida Panthers bounced back in overtime and made sure they wouldn’t need to go home to end their first-round series.
Carter Verheghe scored the OT winner to send the Panthers into the second round after beating the Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 6 on Friday night. It was the franchise’s first playoff series win since 1996, when Florida reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Panthers still have eight wins from returning to the finals, but will have a home-ice advantage for their next series against cross-state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Florida seemed on the verge of a regulation victory when Gustav Forsling left Niklas Backstrom in the third round with 1:09. TJ Oshie scored 6 seconds in the Washington power play and sent a sold out crowd of over 18,000 into a frenzy.
Those fans were silenced after Verheghe scored his sixth goal of the series in 2:46 in overtime. Verheghe, Florida’s leading scorer in the series, missed the Morning Skate and was considered a game-time decision.
Trade-deadline takeover Claude Giroux and captain Aleksandr Barkov scored to propel the Panthers into the third period. Ryan Lomberg scored Florida’s first goal in 2:29 after Nick Dowd got the Capitals on the board.
The Lomborg scoring validated interim coach Andrew Brunet’s decision to include in place of Anthony Duclair, who scored 31 goals during the regular season but had scored only one goal so far in the series. The Panthers need the offense wherever they can get after failing to score on the power play and extending their drought to 0 for 18 in the series.
Their most recent series win came on June 1, 1996, when they defeated Pittsburgh in Game 7 to reach the finals. The Panthers were swept from Colorado, which would begin a 26-year wait between series victories.
Aside from the expanding Seattle Kraken, every other NHL franchise won at least two series during that period. Detroit won 27, Pittsburgh 24, Tampa Bay 22, and Colorado 20. Florida just waited and waited for one until Friday.
The Capitals have not won a playoff series since lifting the cup in 2018 and are out in the first round at home for the third time in that period.
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