Panthers defeat capitals with first series win since 1996


WASHINGTON (AP) — Jonathan Huberdeau couldn’t remember what was on the smiling side of the handshake.

After he and the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime on Friday night to win Game 6 and move on to Round 2, the sentiment is so strong that Huberdeau wants to keep repeating.

“We didn’t know what it felt like,” he said. “Now we can go all the way.”

It’s a long story, but dropping out in the first round was a strong first step for the Presidents Trophy winners, who won the franchise’s first playoff series since 1996. After 26 years of that drought, the Capitals tied with 1:03 and scored another big goal of 2:46 by top scorer Carter Berhege, going into overtime.

Florida will face interstate rivals and defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs in the next round in the next round. They face off in Game 7 of the series on Saturday.

“They will be a big challenge,” interim manager Andrew Brunett said. “It will be a different kind of series.”

The series included the Panthers rallying from the deficit and winning their last three games. After tying in the second period when Ryan Lomberg returned to the lineup, trade deadline Claude Giroux tied the situation in the third period, with captain Aleksander Barkov leading them before TJ Oshie’s power play goal went OT. Went.

Although they won a league-best 29 in the regular season and struggled in a tougher series than many expected, the Panthers have not been shaken by sudden changes in circumstances.

“We were just convinced,” Huberdeau said. “We know we can score a few goals. Obviously they tied it up, but that’s hockey. That’s because that’s the way we last won here. Obviously we stuck with it and that’s the kind of team we’ve shown.”

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Verheaghe’s OT goal was the team’s sixth goal in the series and came after he missed a morning skate and was considered a game time decision. Brunette said Verhaeghe “did deep and found a way to end it.”

That’s true for the whole team. With a reputation for losing in the playoffs, Florida cores Huberdeau, Barkov and top defender Aaron Ekblad have let a team that had previously lacked three times finally enjoy the joy of winning the series.

“It means a lot.” Barkov said. “There has been a lot of talk about this and things like not winning a round or being eliminated in the first round. Of course you don’t think about it, but it is there. As it no longer exists, we are happy about it and happy to be a part of it. But we still have a long way to go to get to where we really want to be.”

The Capitals arrived there in 2018 and won the organization’s first Stanley Cup title. They haven’t won a playoff series since then and were eliminated in the first round at home for the third time during that period.

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said: “I think you can see how we played against the best team in the regular season. “We have it, but just blow it away. it’s up to us “

The Panthers’ most recent series win took place on June 1, 1996, where they defeated Pittsburgh in Game 7 to reach the final. They are swept away by Colorado, where the 26-year wait between series wins begins.

With the exception of the extended Seattle Kraken, all other NHL franchises have won at least two series during that period. Detroit has 27 wins, Pittsburgh has 24, Tampa Bay has 22 and Colorado has 20. Florida waited just one win until Friday.

“You have to go through a few times to really feel these things,” said Brunette. “You must have a broken heart,” she said. It was all worth it when you had to do something that didn’t go your way, and you had to understand and understand how hard it was and to be resilient and to see the same rewards they saw tonight.”

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