The Florida Panthers had Carter Verhaeghe back in their lineup against the Capitals on Friday night after he missed the morning skate.
Florida’s playoff hero from the previous two games did it again in Game 6.
The Panthers, who found themselves trailing in the third, scored twice to take a lead only to see the Capitals tie the score with 1:02 left to force overtime.
Call him Swaggy, Swagieux or Sir Swagalot — it simply does not matter as Verhaeghe became a Florida postseason hero once more as he scored in overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 win — and the series victory.
It is the first playoff win for the Florida franchise since it won Game 7 in Pittsburgh to win the 1996 Eastern Conference championship.
The Panthers will now open the Eastern Conference semifinals at home — perhaps on Tuesday night — against the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and host Toronto Maple Leafs.
Florida had been 0-3 in Game 6 during the first round in its history, previously losing to the Devils (2012), Islanders (2016) and Lightning (2021).
The only first-round win for the Panthers came when Bill Lindsay scored to beat the Bruins in Game 5.
The Capitals came out hard — as expected — and were hitting anything in a white jersey.
Aaron Ekblad ended up leaving the game off a hit from Alex Ovechkin hit on his first period while Chiarot was taken out along the boards by Garnet Hathaway.
Both players missed the end of the period but returned for the second.
The first period was scoreless but Washington dictated the pace of play with Sergei Bobrovsky keeping his team in it despite yet another slow start in this series.
Washington ended up striking first 3:44 into the second, Nic Dowd pushing in a loose puck past Bobrovsky as he followed up his own rebound from the left circle. Bobrovsky lost sight of the puck as it sat between his skates with Dowd rushing in and knocking it in.
That goal snapped Bobrovsky’s personal save streak at 34 consecutive stops dating back to the second period of Game 5.
Florida answered back in quick fashion with Ryan Lomberg putting an exclamation point on his return to the lineup by knocking in a fat rebound off a Patric Hornqvist shot at 6:13.
Both teams had power play chances in the second with Florida continuing its series-long drought with the man advantage.
Nicklas Backstrom gave the Capitals the lead back, deflecting a shot from Justin Schultz from inside the blue line 1:37 into the third.
Florida tied things up again midway through the period, Claude Giroux putting one through Ilya Samsonov’s skates on a soft pass from Aaron Ekblad as the two entered the Washington zone.
Verhaeghe got the secondary assist on the Giroux goal, giving him five goals and 11 points — setting the franchise record for most points in a single postseason series.
With the game tied, Washington came close to retaking the lead when Dowd stole the puck deep in the Florida zone, walked in on Bobrovsky and clanged one off the cage.
Florida then brought the puck down, Sasha Barkov circling the net and getting it up the ice.
MacKenzie Weegar took a long shot with Giroux grabbing the rebound and sliding it through traffic to Barkov who banged one past Samsonov for the Panthers’ first lead of the night.
The Caps pulled Samsonov with 2:20 left to gain the extra skater — and Florida went down one when Gus Forsling got called for tripping with 1:09 remaining.
Six seconds later, Anthony Matha racked one off the post but T.J. Oshie was right there to tie it up.
The Capitals’ comeback was reminiscent of Florida in Game 4 when it pulled Bobrovsky and got the game-tying goal.
Only in this situation, Washington got a power play with Forsling in the box — giving it six skaters to Florida’s four. The Capitals used that number advantage in a big way as they flooded the goal to get the game-tying score.
Giroux was a big part of the game-winning goal as he sent a pretty pass from the end boards to a slashing Verhaeghe. He got his sixth goal of the series and 12th point when he backhanded the puck past Samsonov.
GR’S THREE STARS OF GAME 6
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
2. Claude Giroux, Florida
3. Sasha Barkov, Florida
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS V. MAPLE LEAFS or LIGHTNING
- Game 1: TBA
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: National TV TBA (ESPN or TNT/TBS)
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE