Florida Panthers finally win first playoff series since 1996

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It took them six games to defeat the Capitals, and they’ll now face whatever team wins the Lightning-Maple Leafs series.

Carter Verhaeghe parades his joy in front of despairing Capitals fans after scoring in overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 Game 6 win to clinch the first-round series Friday night in Washington. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]

WASHINGTON — With a fist pump from Carter Verhaeghe, the Panthers’ 212 decades of misery came to an end.

As a game-time decision, the Panthers’ forwards scored 2:46 into overtime in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Capitals to give Florida a 4-3 victory.

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When the Panthers defeated the Lightning in the Stanley Cup final, they ended the NHL’s worst playoff winless streak, which had lasted since June 1, 1996, when Florida last won a series.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have now been without a playoff series win for 18 years.

Panthers forwards Aleksander Barkov expressed his gratitude for the win, saying, “It means a lot.” So much chatter about not winning a single round, getting knocked out in the first round, and other things like that. Although you may not consider it, it exists.

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The fact that it’s gone makes us glad and proud to be a part of it. To get to where we want to be, “there’s still a long road ahead of us,”

The victor of the Lightning-Maple Leafs series will face the Panthers in the next round of play.

Interim coach Andrew Brunette described the games as “big-time difficulties.” In other words, “it’s going to be a new kind of show.”

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When Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling tripped Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom with 1:09 left in the third period, Florida appeared to be on the verge of a regulation victory. Over 18,000 fans were in a frenzy when T.J. Oshie scored six seconds into Washington’s power play to even the game at 3.

After Verhaeghe scored his sixth goal of the series in overtime, the fans remained silent. The ex-Lightning forwards scored his third goal in a row to secure the win. He was deemed a game-time decision after missing the morning skate.

Brunette praised Verhaeghe’s “deep digging” and “finding a means to get it done”

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a purchase made just before the deadline Two third-period goals from Claude Giroux and Alex Barkov put the Panthers ahead 3-2. First-period goals from Ryan Lomberg and Nic Dowd gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead, but Lomberg equalised for Florida only 2:29 later.

Since winning the Cup in 2018, the Capitals have not won a playoff series and have been knocked out in the first round at home three times.

I think you can look at our regular-season record versus the best club,” Washington’s Alex Ovechkin stated. The only thing we do is blow it away. We have it. It’s up to us…. “It’s on us all.”

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At least in the last couple of years,” said Oshie, “I don’t think the all-in attitude was fully there. Three games (in the series) got away from us this year, and I believe we were really close to having everyone on board.

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