Panthers find their mojo to beat Capitals, reach 2nd round

WASHINGTON – When the Florida Panthers confronted their first actual adversity of the season trailing their playoff sequence in opposition to the Washington Capitals, avid gamers held a gathering to set issues immediately.

They mentioned what they had to do higher and were given at the identical web page.

“After that, we just started playing the right way,” captain Aleksander Barkov mentioned. “We held each other accountable, worked really hard for each other and for the guy next to you. That’s how you win.”

The Panthers received the franchise’s first playoff sequence since 1996 through depending on a well-known recipe from the common season, after they had been the NHL’s ideally suited staff and led the league with 29 comeback victories. Each in their ultimate 3 wins in opposition to Washington had been in come-from-behind model, as soon as erasing a three-goal deficit and two times getting some extra time heroics from Carter Verhaeghe.


Initial nerves at house early within the sequence light when Florida began to really feel the drive. Then the Panthers began to seem and play like themselves and moved on to stand the winner of the sequence between the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

“As the series went on, I felt they loosened up a little bit,” meantime trainer Andrew Brunette mentioned. “They found their mojo and got going.”

That mojo supplied the arrogance the Panthers wanted to resist a tying target through Washington’s T.J. Oshie with 1:03 left in Game 6 and a series-long 0 for 18 drought at the persistent play. They joined just a handful of groups in NHL playoff historical past to win a best-of-seven sequence with out scoring a power-play target however may just nonetheless get a laugh out of it within the aftermath of an emotional victory.

“We just got to stick with it and, obviously, maybe work on our power play because we haven’t scored a goal,” most sensible winger Jonathan Huberdeau mentioned.


No staff scored as many objectives because the Panthers all the way through the common season — a fee of four.11 a sport now not noticed since Mario Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Florida did not have a staff but at that time.

Success got here early within the group’s lifestyles with a commute to the Cup Final in its 3rd season. After the Panthers had been swept through the Colorado Avalanche, they hadn’t received a playoff sequence since and the popularity of shedding within the first spherical latched directly to the franchise and, in particular, cornerstone avid gamers Barkov, Huberdeau and defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

Verhaeghe was once the staff’s main scorer with 12 issues on six objectives and 6 assists, however Florida’s core avid gamers had been a large a part of transferring on and were given a possibility to soak all of it in.

“We’re all happy and (it is) a big relief for us,” Huberdeau mentioned. “Having this feeling, we didn’t know how it felt. The last time I felt that was junior. It’s just good to have that feeling again about winning a series, and now we just go to work and think about second round and, who knows, win this one as well.”


Newcomers performed a big position, too. Trade-deadline acquisition Claude Giroux scored within the 3rd duration of Game 6 and arrange Verhaeghe for the extra time winner, which was once some degree of redemption for the longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain after shedding a key faceoff overdue in law when Washington tied it.

“When they tie it up, maybe some guys are down a little bit,” Giroux mentioned. “I was probably one of them. But the mood was great. Guys were excited. Guys had a feeling that if we play our game we’re going to get our chances and we’ll be able to score.”

Even amid their power-play struggles, the Panthers showed they could score at 5-on-5 and got solid goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky to keep playoff hockey going in South Florida. Even though his team had made good on the “Comeback Cats” nickname again, Brunette saw the series as more of what the Panthers did well all year.

“I see a group of guys that get hit and they don’t fall down and then they start hitting back,” he said. “To give up a late goal, those are heartbreaking moments. They could really affect you, it could kill momentum, it could do a bunch of things and again we took the punch, we stood up and then we started punching back. That epitomizes what the whole season was.”



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