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After Injury, Gus Forsling is OT Hero for the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett congratulates defenseman Gus Forsling after he scored in overtime leading their team to a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — Gus Forsling is relied upon for strong, responsible play on the defensive end for the Florida Panthers. 

Saturday night, he gave them just a little bit extra.

Forsling made a big defensive play in the slot on his own end of the ice, then almost immediately found his opportunity to make his mark in overtime.

He jumped out to a 3-on-1 rush and blasted home a one-timer from Sam Bennett to lead the Panthers to a 3-2 overtime win against the Washington Capitals.

“Sometimes, you just got to surprise them,” Forsling said with a grin. 

“There could have been a breakaway, but it worked out.”

Coming off what appeared to be a lower-body concern sustained in the first period of Thursday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Forsling burst up the ice with the same signature speed he showcases day-in and day-out after snuffing out a 2-on-1.

“It was kind of a slingshot play,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Good that Bennett found him because he was the guy that was able to open up. 

“Gus was good tonight, and it wasn’t easy because he had to fight through it.

“He was gone, too. And he had to time it so he didn’t go offside. There wasn’t anybody that could move that fast at that point. Some of the forwards didn’t have much left in the tank, and he’s such a fit man, he can get to high speeds even late in a game.”

And then Forsling made sure he was wide-open for the one-timer.

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“That’s all Fors right there,” Anthony Stolarz said. “That’s just the kind of player he is.

“He balls out 100 percent of every shift; he comes back, makes one hell of a play to stop a 2-on-1, and then chips it up, gives it up to Benny, joins the rush, beats their guy up the ice, and it’s a goal he deserved.

“He’s a good player for us, and he has worked his tail off night in and night out, so it’s good to see him get rewarded.”

The injury that kept Forsling out of the rest of the game in Raleigh did not slow him down at all on Saturday.

“You never want to leave a game,” Forsling said. “But I think, looking back, I made a good decision, and I feel 100 percent now.”

The Panthers needed all the help they could get in the offensive zone.

Matthew Tkachuk missed the game with an upper-body injury, which kept him out of the final two periods of the Carolina game, and Kevin Stenlund was a late addition to the injury report with an illness.

Florida looked discombobulated in the first period — getting outshot 8-4 — before Nick Cousins got them on the board in the second.

“I didn’t think we were anywhere near where we would like to be,” Maurice said. “I also know you’re not going to be over 82, so you need to get the points when you can, even when you’re not at your best.

“But we seemed disjointed at times during the game, and we’ve rarely gone off-script in terms of how we approach it and what we’re going to try to do, but our forecheck was unusual.”

Stenlund’s absence on the penalty kill proved costly, too.

Sonny Milano tied the game at 1 off of a quick tic-tac-toe play near the front of the net late in the second period.

Tom Wilson then took advantage of a questionable holding penalty on Sasha Barkov and scored on that power play with 9:49 to go.

“Let me rephrase that,” Maurice said of the call. “Barkov got called for a penalty.”

Either way, the penalty kill ended up 2-for-4.

“We will look at those two goals we gave up and say that it doesn’t matter who’s there,” Maurice said. “We had a plan for what happened, and we didn’t execute.

“But it runs guys’ minutes the way you don’t want, and they did a good job.”

Barkov got the Panthers back in the game in the third period, deflecting a Carter Verhaeghe shot on the power play with 3:30 to go.

“We all trust each other,” Forsling said of the team’s play down the stretch. 

“Even though we didn’t have the jump from the start, I think we battled hard to come back and get the two points.”

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Tuesday; April 13.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 55-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.

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