SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers certainly lived up to their ‘Comeback Cats’ moniker in their previous outing, but who could have guessed they would do it again on Wednesday night?
With less than four minutes gone in the second period, the Panthers found themselves down three.
A rollicking FLA Live Arena had gone silent. Accept for the fellow in the upper deck who shouted: ‘Do something, Panthers!’
Well, Sir, the Panthers heard you.
Loud and clear.
At least Carter Verhaeghe did.
Another Florida comeback started not long after the sarcastic pleading came down from on high, the Panthers scoring three of their own to close the second period.
In the third, Florida got a second Verhaeghe goal and pulled out a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Verhaeghe ended with two goals and five points as he had the primary assist on Florida’s other three goals.
Nice night for the guy they call ‘Swaggy.’
The Panthers hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 6 on Friday night in D.C.
The Panthers had hoped to carry momentum from Monday’s rousing overtime win into Wednesday and, with a loud crowd backing them, played an aggressive first period.
Florida found itself down 1-0 when T.J. Oshie deflected yet another shot past Sergei Bobrovsky 7:09 into the first as the Capitals picked up their fifth power play goal of the series.
Early in the second, Washington made it 2-0 when Bobrovsky, Aaron Ekblad and Sasha Barkov could not find a loose puck at Bobrovsky’s feet; Justin Schultz located it, though, pouncing on the puck and sending it high at 2:13.
Just over a minute later, Oshie got his second of the night after coming up on a 2-on-1 rush with Evgeny Kuznetsov to make it 3-0.
The full arena in the Everglades went silent save for some muttering and some choice words from a few patrons.
The crowd would cheer again — and soon.
Florida’s first of three in the third came courtesy of Monday’s hero as Verhaeghe tapped in a pass banked in off the end boards from Barkov.
At 12:27 of the second, John Carlson whiffed on a slap shot off the boards and Verhaeghe was hot in pursuit picking off the puck.
Patric Hornqvist quickly turned up ice and Verhaeghe hit him in stride with a nice saucer pass, Hornqvist driving in and beating Ilya Samsonov.
The Panthers were not done.
Over two minutes later, Sam Reinhart knocked in a loose puck from a play he started; after throwing it to Verhaeghe in front of the net, the shot was blocked. Carlson and Samsonov couldn’t get to the puck before Reinhart charged back in and punched it through.
Just like that it was a tie game with a lot of time remaining.
Florida appeared to tie the score much earlier than they did, Anton Lundell potting a loose puck Samsonov was crouching over. At least one official lost sight of the puck, however, and whistled the play dead before Lundell popped it in.
Regardless, it was tied going into the third.
Verhaeghe kept his hot streak going, getting his second of the night at 3:04 of the third and he strode to the front of the net and knocked in a pass from Barkov.
Florida, for the first time since Jonathan Huberdeau scored early in Game 3, had a lead in regulation.
Later in the game — after playing Pepas — the Panthers finally got to take a deep breath and enjoy Mambo No. 5 as Verhaeghe got his fifth point off his third primary assist as Claude Giroux faked out Samsonov to make it 5-3 with 4:05 left.
— Wednesday’s announced attendance: 20,023.
GR’S THREE STARS OF GAME 5
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
2. T.J. Oshie, Washington
3. Sasha Barkov, Florida
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (FLA leads 3-2)
- Game 6: Friday, 7:30
- Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBS
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida 3, @Washington 2 (OT); Game 5: @Florida 5, Washington 3; Game 6: Florida at Washington, Friday (Time, National TV TBA); Game 7*: Washington at Florida, Sunday. *If necessary