SUNRISE — Six months later, the Washington Capitals still cannot stop Carter Verhaeghe. Or the Florida Panthers.
Just a few months ago, Carter Verhaeghe propelled the Panthers to their first playoff series win in almost 30 years with six goals and 12 points and finished off the Capitals with the series-clinching overtime goal in Game 6.
Verhaeghe kept his hot scoring touch going in Florida’s first meeting with the Capitals, scoring twice in the final three minutes to help wrap up a 5-2 Panthers victory.
”Coach keeps telling me I’m a shooter so I was trying to shoot the puck,” Verhaeghe said.
”I am playing with a couple of great players who are finding me in crazy spots and a lot of times I just have to put it in the net.”
Verhaeghe became the 12th player in the NHL to hit the 10-goal mark this season and has 8 goals and 14 points since he and Sasha Barkov were teamed up with Matthew Tkachuk on Oct. 25.
He is tied for eighth in goals and 11th in points in that span.
It was Verhaeghe’s ninth goal of the season which gave the Panthers some room to breathe and all but sealed the game for the Panthers.
Up 3-2, Florida found itself on the penalty kill for the fifth time with 7:42 to go after Radko Gudas took a holding penalty.
After the penalty kill locked things down, only allowing one shot on that Capitals’ man advantage, the two teams entered a neutral zone stalemate that lasted almost four minutes.
Neither team registered a shot on goal after Washington’s lone shot on the power play.
“They were on us hard and then we had the resolve to get back to our game after that kill,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
”It did not feel to me that we were hanging on to the very end. We were hanging on for the first 10 but then we righted it and got strong at the end.”
Verhaeghe broke the ice with three minutes left in the game.
Brandon Montour found a hole in Washington’s neutral zone defense for the zone entry and got the puck to Barkov — who found Verhaeghe near the front of the net.
From there, all he had to do was tap in his own rebound and the Panthers were back up two goals.
“They were tilted there for a little bit but it was good to get on top there and break through,” Verhaeghe said.
”We were playing solid in the neutral zone and we were not giving them anything, which was what we wanted to do in a tight game.”
The Panthers’ penalty kill had a similar M-O, going 5-for-5 for after leaning on Eric Staal and Eetu Luostarinen to play heavy minutes.
”It had a lot of confidence and aggressiveness and maybe a little bit of cohesiveness,” Maurice said.
”Luostarinen and Staal up front have taken the big bulk of the minutes and they are both long guys with good sticks. We are able to pull Barkov’s minutes back and he and [Anton] Lundell go out for that key second face-off.”
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida (2 goals)
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (41 saves)
3. Sasha Barkov, Florida (goal, 2 assists)
PANTHERS ON DECK
DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 24-19-2, 3 ties