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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Overtime? More Like ‘Winning Time’ for the Florida Panthers

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The Florida Panthers celebrate after defeating the Bruins on a goal by Carter Verhaeghe in overtime of Game 7 on April 30 in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Florida Panthers have been the kings of overtime hockey during the postseason, a big reason why they are hanging out at home waiting for the NHL to release the schedule for the Eastern Conference finals.

The Panthers will visit the Carolina Hurricanes for Game 1 — eventually — and it is all but certain at least one of the games in the best-of-7 series will be tied at the end of regulation.

Overtime in the playoffs is a pressure-packed situation, for sure.

It is called ‘sudden-death’ for a reason.

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The Panthers have not only not wilted under the pressure, but they have seemed to revel in it.

Florida is now 4-0 in overtime games — which is half of their playoff wins — with all four coming on road ice.

Two of the wins ended the season of their opponents.

“We do have a mindset for overtime,” coach Paul Maurice said. “It sounds so simple, but you go play to win. I think there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the two teams we played not to lose. Boston can’t lose that game to us, right?

“We’re going out there, playing fast and not changing our game. We go out to attack in overtime and we saw that in the Boston overtime games. We were on it pretty good. There was no fear in our game. It was going forward.”

With the way Florida has played in overtime, one would think it had been doing this all year.

It did not.

During the regular season, the Panthers went 6-8 in overtime games — which included a 2-1 record in shootouts.

So, in games which were decided in the 3-on-3, 5-minute overtime period, Florida went 4-7.

Of course, in playoff hockey, the 3-on-3 deal is gone. It is full-scale, 5-on-5 hockey played until someone scores.

To date, it has been the Panthers doing all the scoring in overtime.

First it was Matthew Tkachuk in Game 5 against Boston when goalie Linus Ullmark misplayed a puck and Carter Verhaeghe stole it. Then Verhaeghe clinched his second series in OT when he beat Jeremy Swayman in Game 7.

Against Toronto, Sam Reinhart won Game 2 in overtime with Nick Cousins scoring the series-clincher Friday night in Game 5.

“We have a very serious team and guys want to do well,” Tkachuk said before Game 4 of the Toronto series. “But, it is a tie game, late in the third and we’re on the bench enjoying it. We’re laughing, looking around, smiling and enjoying the moment that we are in. We’re having so much fun.

“Before overtime, we’re enjoying it. We have a fun environment. We just have to do everything we can to prepare and be ready to win each game. That’s what we have been doing the past few months. This is the big stage and it’s fun.”

The Panthers have also been taking care of business pretty quickly in overtime.

Aside from Cousins’ goal in Game 5, Florida’s previous three OT goals came before the 10-minute mark.

Tkachuk scored at 6:05, Verhaeghe at 8:35 and Reinhart at 3:02.

Cousins scored at 15:32.

“We have the kind of players who want to make plays,” Maurice said. “When they are skating and going in overtime, statistics will tell you the vast majority of overtime games are over in the first 5 minutes or a big chunk will end early. So you can’t go into overtime trying to feel it out. You have to go as fast as you can.”

Give goalie Sergei Bobrovsky a lot of credit here as well.

He has a total of 18 saves in four overtime periods — including nine in Game 5.

Reinhart’s goal in Game 2 was the only shot on goal recorded by either team.

The Panthers are simply finding ways to win close games. They do not get any closer than postseason overtime games.

Of Florida’s four wins against the Leafs in the second round, three were by a single goal. The Panthers won 4-2 in Game 1.

The final three wins of the Boston series were by 1, 2 and 1-goal margins.

“All year, we talked about how to play in these kind of games,” Sasha Barkov said on Friday night.

“Even in the regular season when you’re losing by a goal or two, you don’t want to open up your game in hoping you’ll get them. You just keep grinding and the play the way we’re playing right now. It’s paying off.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1)
GAME 1

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