SUNRISE — On a shelf in a corner of the Florida Panthers locker room late Thursday night sat a large plate filled with energy bars, assorted pieces of fruit and candy.
When it comes to playing overtime games, Florida’s training staff is prepared.
They have also had a lot of experience.
The Panthers played their seventh overtime game of this postseason on Thursday as Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was not decided after 60 minutes of play — not when Matthew Tkachuk tied the score at 2 with 2:23 remaining.
Things did not go deep into the night — or early into the morning — this time around as Carter Verhaeghe pulled out some more overtime magic by scoring another winner less than 5 minutes in.
The Panthers and overtime have been a perfect couple this postseason.
”Every time the game gets close and it goes to overtime, there is a calmness to our group,’’ Nick Cousins said. “And usually, when we go to overtime, we just get the puck to Carter Verhaeghe and good things happen.’’
Florida has been to seven overtime games in this postseason and have won them all.
Five have been away from the comforts of home including a quadruple overtime win in Carolina for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals which was the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
“Obviously, we do have shooters. We’ve got guys that can score,’’ Eric Staal said. “We got guys that are comfortable in a situation where they can be asked to bury one. We got guys that have some game-breaking ability. When you have that in your lineup, it takes one quick look. Obviously, we saw that last night but we saw it over the whole course of the playoffs. There are guys in that room that are built more moments like that. Hopefully there’s some more moments ahead here as we continue on.”
With seven consecutive victories, the Panthers are tied for second all-time with the 2003 Anaheim Ducks and three back of the record 10 straight OT wins by the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.
Those Canadiens ended up losing No. 11 but still won Canada’s last Stanley Cup championship that year.
What is it about the Panthers and overtime that has been so special this postseason?
“I think overtime is a fun place for us because we have to scratch and claw to get it to overtime,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ve had a couple of games get away from us where we had a lead and they tied it and it went to overtime. Most of the overtimes we tied it earlier in the period.
“We are playing tight, tight games. From a coaches perspective, if you can get a game to overtime, your work is done. You are right. It is not 7-7; it is a tight game and a lot of things had to go right. You’re goaltending is good, you had to play your ass off, block shots, it wasn’t pretty. They had chances, make the most of yours and now you get to go where it’s fun. That’s the feeling I get from them. They’re looking forward to it. In the room between the third and overtime, they’re chirping about who is going to get the goal.”
Said Radko Gudas: “(The room is) Definitely not quiet, for sure. We had a pretty tight second half of the season. Everybody had to play in a situation where there was a must-win or no-mistakes allowed. But it also gave us the chance of knowing that we can make those plays in crucial situations. I think everybody is confident going in the overtime, but I don’t think it’s just the overtime. … guys are showing up in the right moment. It’s what you want to have on the team.”
The Panthers have certainly been feeding off the emotions of winning such games, the next-score-wins excitement driving them to the next one.
Florida got this train rolling in Game 5 of the Boston series when Tkachuk and then Verhaeghe finished off the Bruins in overtime of Game 7 for his second series-clinching overtime win in the past two postseasons.
Of Florida’s seven OT wins, Tkachuk has three goals followed by Verhaeghe (2), Sam Reinhart (1) and Cousins (1).
“Wartime wins are more fun. They are, right?” Maurice said. “We have a whole bunch of them but have not over-celebrated them. But they are more fun. You win a game in regulation, half the team walks off the bench, tap pads, it’s a good thing.
“We’re not coming into the playoffs with the a hate the player game. ‘Yeah we won, keep it even keel because that’s how good we are.’ We allow them to enjoy the overtime wins, we just don’t celebrate it the next day very much. But everyone came in today in a good mood.
“It is a different group. In any underdog role, you have find energy in different places and we allow them to celebrate that.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
GAME 4 (Vegas leads 2-1)
- When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: @Vegas 5, Florida 2; Game 2: @Vegas 7, Florida 2; Game 3: @Florida 3, Vegas 2 (OT); Game 4: Saturday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5: Tuesday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- Postseason History: First meeting
- How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.