For the first time in 26 years the Florida Panthers are going to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They eliminated the Washington Capitals in Game 6 on Friday night with a 4-3 overtime win that featured Carter Verhaeghe playing the roll of hero again.
Verhaeghe, who was a game-time decision going into the game, scored his second overtime goal of the series to give the Panthers the series clinching win. It capped off an absolutely sensational performance by the Panthers’ winger as he recorded 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the six-game series.
Along with his game-winning goal on Friday he also added an assist on Claude Giroux‘s third period goal.
His overtime winner capped off a wild ending to Game 6 that saw the Panthers take a late 3-2 lead on an Aleksander Barkov goal, and then surrender a game-tying goal to T.J. Oshie with a minute to play in regulation on a 6-on-4 advantage.
That all set the stage for Verhaeghe’s goal just 2:46 into the overtime period.
This is the Panthers’ first postseason series win since the 1995-96 Eastern Conference Final when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. That was their third-year in existence as a franchise. Since then they have appeared in the playoffs just six other times, winning no series. Not only have they not won any series until now, they only had one series during that stretch where they even had a chance to close out a series (leading 3-2 against New Jersey during the 2011-12 playoffs, only to lose Games 6 and 7 in overtime).
Florida now awaits the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.