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Carter Verhaeghe Puts on a Show as Florida Panthers Roll Columbus

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Carter Verhaeghe celebrates his third goal of the night against the Columbus Blue Jackets with Anthony Duclair, Sasha Barkov, Brandon Montour and Marc Staal in the second period on Saturday night. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

The Florida Panthers are at a point in their season where they needed a win and Carter Verhaeghe certainly came through for them.

Again.

Verhaeghe has been known for showing up in big games — especially during Florida’s playoff run last season — and he built on that with a four-goal showing in a 7-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets that put the Panthers back in a playoff spot.

“I have no idea, I just shoot it and sometimes it goes in,” Verhaeghe said.

“I had a couple of really good passes from guys, had a couple open nets and shot the puck in the net. It was pretty good.”

Verhaeghe may bring the ‘aw-shucks’ following games, but what he has been doing has simply been impressive.

Not only did he become the third player (Pavel Bure did it twice, Mark Parrish once) to score four goals in a game in franchise history, but he joined Bure as Florida’s only 40-goal scorers in a single season as well.

It is a feat that captain Sasha Barkov has not been able to achieve despite having multiple close calls in 2018-19 (35) and last season (39) en route to the franchise’s all-time goal record.

Saturday night, he ended up with a natural hat trick by scoring three straight goals between the first and second periods before he got his fourth in the third.

The Panthers were in control of this game from the start, leading 2-0 after 20 and 4-0 going into the third.

Verhaeghe, obviously, was a big part of it.

“Some good goal scorers are hard to convince to do the other things but he is willing to work hard and he is willing to battle on the boards,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said.

“I think he could have had three more tonight. I think there is another level he can get to.”

Verhaeghe has come a long way since arriving in South Florida as an undrafted player who spent a long time in the minors.

His work ethic kept earned him a chance in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning during their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2020 and his tour with the Panthers seemed to unlock his scoring ability on a consistent basis.

Verhaeghe turned a lot of heads when he hung around the 20-goal mark in his first two seasons in Sunrise but he keeps continuing to find ways to reach new heights.

And it starts with the will to improve that got him there in the first place.

“He is just so smart at finding the shot lanes,” said Sam Reinhart, who scored what was the game-winning goal to kick off the rout.

”He has worked a tremendous amount on his shot over the last couple of years and he is getting rewarded for it. That is a huge milestone for someone to hit and we’re excited for him.”

There are more big moments to come as the Panthers wind down their season and Verhaeghe has a track record for being ready for it.

Last year, he scored six goals and 12 points — including two overtime winners — in 10 playoff games.

But big moments, much like his four-goal outing on Saturday, will be required over the last five regular season games in order for Florida to even get in.

The Panthers currently hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with a one-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh does have one extra game on their schedule, making it all the more important that Florida wins as many of the games on theirs as possible.

The Panthers are also two points behind the New York Islanders for the first wild card spot — one that would help them avoid a first-round date with a Boston Bruins team which could potentially be the greatest regular season team of all-time.

“We’re in the mix and every game is a playoff game right now,” Verhaeghe said.

“We are doing everything we can to make a push. We want to get in really bad so we are trying.”

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