Sports

Panthers beat Caps in OT, win 1st playoff series since 1996

WASHINGTON – Jonathan Huberdeau could not have in mind what it was once love to be at the smiling facet of a handshake line.

The emotions have been so robust after he and the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in time beyond regulation Friday evening to win Game 6 and transfer directly to the second one spherical that Huberdeau desires to copy it again and again.

“We didn’t know how it felt,” he mentioned. “Now we might as well go all the way.”

That’s some distance off, however getting out of the primary spherical was once a powerful first step for the Presidents’ Trophy winners who gained the franchise’s first playoff sequence since 1996. Ending that drought at 26 years took bouncing again from the Capitals tying the rating with 1:03 left in legislation and getting any other large objective from main scorer Carter Verhaeghe 2:46 into time beyond regulation to transport on.

Florida will face both the cross-state rival — and back-to-back protecting Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning — or the Toronto Maple Leafs within the subsequent spherical. They face off in Game 7 of that sequence Saturday.

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“They’re going to be big-time challenges,” meantime trainer Andrew Brunette mentioned. “It will be a different kind of series.”

This sequence incorporated the Panthers rallying from a deficit to win the overall 3 video games. After Ryan Lomberg tied it in the second one length in his go back to the lineup, trade-deadline acquisition Claude Giroux evened issues up within the 3rd and captain Aleksander Barkov put them forward ahead of T.J. Oshie’s power-play objective despatched the sport to OT.

After a league-high 29 comeback victories within the common season and a dose of adversity in a harder sequence than many expected, the Panthers weren’t shaken by way of the surprising flip of occasions.

“We were just confident,” Huberdeau mentioned. “We know we can score some goals. Obviously they tied it up, but that’s hockey. That’s how it happened the way we won here the last time, so that was the same thing. Obviously we stuck with it, and that’s the kind of team we are and we showed it.”

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Verheaghe’s OT objective was once his team-leading 6th of the sequence and got here after he overlooked the morning skate and was once thought to be a game-time choice. Brunette mentioned Verhaeghe “dug in deep and found a way to get it done.”

That’s true about all the group. Dogged by way of the popularity of dropping within the playoffs, Florida’s core of Huberdeau, Barkov and best defenseman Aaron Ekblad that had fallen brief 3 earlier instances after all were given to soak in what it is love to win a chain.

“It means a lot,” Barkov said. “There’s been a lot of talk about this and not winning any rounds, getting knocked out in the first round and stuff like that. Of course you don’t think about that, but it’s there. It’s not there anymore, so we’re happy about that and happy to be a part of it. But there’s still a long way to go to the point where we actually want to be.”

The Capitals were given there in 2018, profitable the group’s first Stanley Cup name. They have now not gained a playoff sequence since and were given knocked out within the first spherical at house for the 3rd time in that span.

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“I think you see how we played against the best team in the regular season,” Washington captain Alex Ovechkin mentioned. “We have it, but we just blow it away. It is on us. ”

The Panthers’ most up-to-date sequence win got here June 1, 1996, after they beat Pittsburgh in Game 7 to advance to the overall. They were given swept by way of Colorado, beginning what would start a 26-year wait between sequence victories.

Other than the growth Seattle Kraken, each and every different NHL franchise had gained no less than two sequence all over that span. Detroit gained 27, Pittsburgh 24, Tampa Bay 22 and Colorado gained 20. Florida saved ready and ready for only one, till Friday.

“These things, you’ve got to go through them a few times to really get the feel of it,” Brunette mentioned. “You have to have heartbreaks. You have to have things that don’t go your way and you can find how hard it is and understand it and be resilient and when you see the reward like they saw tonight, it was all worth it.”

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NOTES: Lomberg performed for the primary time since Game 1, changing Anthony Duclair in Florida’s lineup. Duclair was once a wholesome scratch after placing only one shot on internet within the first 5 video games. … Washington was once with out proper wing Tom Wilson for a 5th consecutive sport on account of a lower-body damage.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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