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Verhaeghe, Panthers eliminate Capitals in OT

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 13 May 2022 21:04

Washington is one and done.

The Washington Capitals were sent packing in Game 6 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Friday, falling 4-3 in overtime.

Carter Verhaeghe had the game-winner for Florida, his sixth goal of the postseason. The defeat made for three consecutive first-round exits for Washington, who haven't advanced in the playoffs since winning a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The Panthers hadn't won a playoff series since 1996, when they appeared in a Cup Final. Florida moves on now to face the winner between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. Game 7 of that series is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

Washington was in a tough place entering these playoffs, with the eight seed up against the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners. Florida dominated the league offensively from the get-go and topped out at a franchise-record 122 points.

Still, the Capitals gave Florida all it could handle, taking a 2-1 series lead after Game 3.

In fact, Washington won Game 1 and Game 3 by a combined score of 10-3, pushing Florida netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to the limit and challenging Florida's stable of high-octane forwards. In Game 5, the Capitals held a 3-0 lead too, but they let it slip away to end up with their own backs against the wall.

That was a crucial swing for the Panthers. It not only gave them back an upper hand in the series but quieted some of Washington's burgeoning confidence ahead of what would be a decisive Game 6 in their own building.

But even in Game 6, Washington scored late to force overtime and made the Panthers work for the series victory.

The Capitals were on the board first too, when Nic Dowd beat Bobrovsky early in the second period. But Ryan Lomberg responded quickly for Florida, making it 2-2 heading into the third period.

The Capitals kept the pressure on, and Nicklas Backstrom put them back on top less than two minutes into that final frame. Claude Giroux notched his third of the postseason for Florida to even things up midway though, and captain Aleksander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal for the Panthers late in the third.

The Panthers move on now to the second round holding the inauspicious designation of the only playoff team not to have scored a power play goal. Florida went 0-for-19 against Washington with the extra man, after boasting the league's fifth-best power play (24.4%) in the regular season.

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