NHL

Florida Panthers live up to 'Comeback Cats' nickname to win first playoff series since 1996

By Sports Desk May 14, 2022

Florida Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said his side's fighting spirit was key in a series comeback against the Washington Capitals, culminating in Friday's 4-3 victory in overtime.

It was the Panthers' third straight win after falling down 2-1 in the series, and Game 6 was closely contested throughout.

After a scoreless first period, Nic Dowd opened the scoring for the Capitals, before Ryan Lomberg answered straight back to keep things at 1-1 heading into the last frame.

Nicklas Backstrom put the home side back in front, but the 'Comeback Cats' would not lay down, with Claude Giroux and Aleksander Barkov giving the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

In the closing stages, after the Capitals had pulled their goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice, T.J. Oshie found the equaliser to send the crowd into raptures and force overtime.

But this was the Panthers' night, and Carter Verhaeghe slotted the golden goal less than three minutes into the extra period to win the game and seal the series.

It is the first time the Panthers have won a playoff series since 1996, and Brunette said the performance epitomised their season.

"I think it's what we saw all year – the resiliency of the group," he said.

"People will say we're the 'Comeback Cats' – I'm not sure that's what I see – I see a group of guys that get hit, and they don't fall down, and they start hitting back. 

"They showed that throughout the whole series, they showed it tonight. 

"We gave up a late goal – it was a heart-breaking moment that could really affect you and can kill momentum – but again, we took the punch, we stood up, and we started punching back. It epitomises the whole season for us."

Asked if finally getting an elusive series win takes the pressure off his players, Brunette said he hopes it is the case.

"I hope [the series win takes the monkey off the Panthers' backs] – especially for the guys that have been here for a while," he said.

"It probably feels really good, because they put a lot of pressure on themselves – probably too much – throughout the course of the series. They were able to find a way and pull through it.

"I think as the series went on I felt they loosened up a little bit. We were a little nervous at home the other night, but they found their mojo and got going. 

"These things – you've got to go through them a few times to really get the feel of it. You have to have heartbreaks, you have to have things not go your way, to find out how hard it is, and understand it, and be resilient. 

"When you see the reward like they did tonight, it's all worth it."

Related items

  • Hurricanes hero Ian Cole admits he was looking to pass before game-winning goal Hurricanes hero Ian Cole admits he was looking to pass before game-winning goal

    The Carolina Hurricanes needed a late equaliser to send Game 1 of their playoff series against the New York Rangers to overtime, where they would score the golden goal to win 2-1 in front of their home fans.

    Filip Chytil put the Rangers ahead in the first period with his goal from an Alexis Lafreniere assist as they tried to pinch Game 1 on the road.

    Behind another stout goaltending performance from Rangers star Igor Shesterkin, the 1-0 scoreline would hold all the way through the second period and deep into the last, when Sebastian Aho finally found the equaliser with less than three minutes left on the clock.

    After Carolina fans waited nearly an hour of game time for their first goal, they only had to wait three minutes into overtime to get their second, as Ian Cole landed an optimistic shot past Shesterkin the winner.

    Just his second goal in 104 postseason games, Cole said shooting was not on his mind when he received the puck.

    "I was looking to pass it to someone," he said. "No one was really kind of anywhere dangerous – so I was like, 'Well, I guess I'll throw it on net and see what happens'.

    "Hockey's a game of weird bounces, and it happened to go in. Not the prettiest, but we'll take it."

    Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour was proud of his side pulling through the way they did, but he acknowledged it felt like they got out of jail.

    "Kudos to our guys, they got it going in – it certainly was a good third period," he said.

    "[But] we're not going to get away with that. Not playing two periods and expect to win a game — especially at this time of year against that team.”

    Rangers coach Gerard Gallant felt his team did not get the reward for their play, going as far as saying their first two periods were as good as they had played all season.

    "They put a big push on in the third period in the first 10 minutes, and we weathered that storm," he said.

    "But the first two periods was perfect hockey for us... I thought it was our best game of the year, I really did."

    Game 2 will remain in Carolina on Friday before heading to Madison Square Garden in New York for Game 3 and Game 4.

  • 'Look at the saves he makes': Lightning hail Vasilevskiy after Game 1 win over Panthers 'Look at the saves he makes': Lightning hail Vasilevskiy after Game 1 win over Panthers

    Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was the hero as the Tampa Bay Lightning boosted their three-peat bid by winning 4-1 over the Florida Panthers in Game 1 in second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    The Lightning beat the Panthers in the first round of last year's playoffs 4-2 after going 2-0 up in the series and Tuesday's win got them halfway there in this year's Eastern Conference semi-finals.

    Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was full of praise for 27-year-old Vasilevskiy, who made 34 saves as the Lightning fired in three third-period goals to get the win.

    Vasilevskiy's 34 saves are the most he has had in a game this postseason, while he has stopped 94 of 99 shots over the past three games.

    "Look at the saves he makes at the times we need them," said Cooper in his 124th playoff game with the Lightning.

    "To me, that's what great goaltenders do and they give you a chance to win a hockey game and that’s what our guy did again tonight."

    Nikita Kucherov, who scored a goal and had an assist, also hailed the Russian goaltender.

    "He brings 100 per cent effort every single game and everybody's just trying to take his energy and bring it to your game," Kucherov said.

    "He's a leader ... he's our best player."

    Florida had taken the lead through Anthony Duclair in the first period but the Lightning hit back with four unanswered goals from Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kucherov and Ross Colton to take the win.

    "We're still learning and unfortunately we had to learn again tonight. We will be better next game," Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette said.

    "They are too good of a team, a veteran team, and they're not going to open the door for you. We had our opportunities. On to the next game."

  • Golden Knights fire Pete DeBoer Golden Knights fire Pete DeBoer

    The Vegas Golden Knights have fired head coach Pete DeBoer.

    DeBoer's exit was announced on Monday and comes after the Golden Knights failed to make the playoffs for the first time in their brief history.

    He replaced Gerard Gallant in January 2020 and led the Golden Knights to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Dallas Stars in five games.

    They progressed to the Stanley Cup semi-finals the following season, losing in six games to the Montreal Canadiens, but a 43-31-8 record in 2021-22 meant the Golden Knights missed the playoffs having reached the postseason in each of their first four campaigns after joining the NHL in 2017. 

    "We would like to thank Pete DeBoer for his commitment to the Vegas Golden Knights over the past three seasons," said Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon.

    "Since joining the organisation, Pete and his staff have guided us through some of the most unique and challenging circumstances we've witnessed since our franchise entered the NHL.

    "After lengthy discussions over the last two weeks, we believe that a new coach will put us in the best position to succeed next season."

    DeBoer had a 98-50-12 record with the Golden Knights in the regular season.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.