The Florida Panthers ended a nasty 24-season streak without reaching the second round of the National League playoffs on Friday in Washington. They defeated the Capitals 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 of their series, eliminating their opponents in the process.
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It's only the second time in franchise history that the Panthers have reached the first round. The organization, which had entered the Bettman circuit in 1993, had also achieved the feat in 1996. It had even reached the Stanley Cup final at that time.
It was Carter Verhaeghe who finally delivered his people. He took advantage of a relay from Claude Giroux in front of Ilya Samsonov's net, before foiling the latter with a backhand shot.
The decisive scorer was also in danger of missing this match, after having amassed five points in the fifth duel. After his team's morning training, head coach Andrew Brunette said Verhaeghe was suffering from an undisclosed injury and that his case would be reassessed during the warm-up session. His presence was ultimately important, since he finished the first round with six goals and as many assists.
Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers the day before the trade deadline, Giroux finally had a big role in this decisive duel.
Late in the third period, he was also complicit in the net of Aleksander Barkov, who gave the visitors a 3-2 lead. He was also the one who tied the game 2-2, almost six minutes before Barkov's success, with a shot between Samsonov's pads.
Delay the inevitable
The Capitals looked set to be knocked out after regulation 60 minutes when Gustav Forsling was awarded a penalty with 69 seconds left. Just six seconds later, T.J. Oshie took advantage of a bouncing puck to sow hysteria at Capital One Arena.
Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd also hit the target for crowd favorites.