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

When the Florida Panthers confronted their first actual adversity of the season trailing their playoff sequence towards the Washington Capitals, gamers held a gathering to set issues straight.

They talked about what they wanted to do higher and obtained on the identical web page.

“After that, we just started playing the right way,” captain Aleksander Barkov stated. “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 by counting on a well-recognized recipe from the common season, once they had been the NHL’s greatest staff and led the league with 29 comeback victories. Each of their ultimate three wins towards Washington had been in come-from-behind trend, as soon as erasing a three-goal deficit and twice getting some extra time heroics from Carter Verhaeghe.

Initial nerves at house early within the sequence pale when Florida began to really feel the strain. Then the Panthers began to look and play like themselves and moved on to face 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,” interim coach Andrew Brunette stated. “They found their mojo and got going.”

That mojo supplied the boldness the Panthers wanted to face up to a tying objective by Washington’s T.J. Oshie with 1:03 left in Game 6 and a series-long 0 for 18 drought on the facility play. They joined solely a handful of groups in NHL playoff historical past to win a best-of-seven sequence with out scoring a power-play objective however may nonetheless get a chuckle 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,” prime winger Jonathan Huberdeau stated.

No staff scored as many objectives because the Panthers through the common season – a charge of 4.11 a sport not seen since Mario Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Florida didn’t have a staff but at that time.

Success got here early within the group’s existence with a visit to the Cup Final in its third season. After the Panthers had been swept by the Colorado Avalanche, they hadn’t received a playoff sequence since and the popularity of shedding within the first spherical latched on to the franchise and, notably, cornerstone gamers Barkov, Huberdeau and defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

Verhaeghe was the staff’s main scorer with 12 factors on six objectives and 6 assists, however Florida’s core gamers had been a giant a part of shifting on and obtained an opportunity to soak all of it in.

“We’re all happy and (it is) a big relief for us,” Huberdeau stated. “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 significant position, too. Trade-deadline acquisition Claude Giroux scored within the third interval of Game 6 and arrange Verhaeghe for the extra time winner, which was some stage of redemption for the longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain after shedding a key faceoff late in regulation when Washington tied it.

“When they tie it up, maybe some guys are down a little bit,” Giroux stated. “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 confirmed they might rating at 5-on-5 and obtained strong goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky to maintain playoff hockey getting into South Florida. Even although his staff had made good on the “Comeback Cats” nickname once more, Brunette noticed the sequence as extra of what the Panthers did properly all yr.

“I see a group of guys that get hit and they don’t fall down and then they start hitting back,” he stated. “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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