Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe found the back of the net in overtime to avoid trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 at home.
The Panthers had yet to lose in overtime in these playoffs, going 6-0 in golden goal situations heading into this period.
Verhaeghe made sure to keep the streak alive as he sniped the puck past Golden Knights netminder Adin Hill to the delight of the home crowd, who reacted accordingly.
The goal felt like a sigh of relief for Panthers fans in the stands and those watching at home, as a Florida loss would have put the Golden Knights one win away from the trophy.
As we’ve seen with these Panthers, the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, this postseason: one win can change an entire series.
Verhaeghe wouldn’t have had the opportunity to score the OT winner if it wasn’t for Matthew Tkachuk coming in clutch yet again with his 11th Stanley Cup Playoffs goal that tied the game at two late in the third period.
With 2:13 remaining in the game, Florida had their net empty for the extra attacker to come on the ice. The Panthers have scored on numerous occasions in these scenarios, and Tkachuk found himself with the puck at his stick and tons of net to work with after Hill saved an initial shot on goal.
Tkachuk poked it in and, just like that, the Panthers were back in business.
Florida did a better job Thursday staying within reach of a win after things didn’t fair too well in Games 1 and 2 in Las Vegas, where the Golden Knights took a commanding lead with 12 goals to the Panthers’ four.
Brandon Montour got on the scoreboard first for Florida to begin the game, potting his seventh goal of the playoffs thanks to Tkachuk’s 13th assist and Marc Staal’s third.
The Golden Knights, though, responded late in the first, with Mark Stone snagging his eighth goal of the playoffs on a power play opportunity.
In the second period, the Jonathan Marchessault, who seems to score at whim lately, marked his 13th goal of the playoffs on another power play for the Golden Knights. Superstar Jack Eichel had his 17th assist, while Stone got his 11th to put Vegas into a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Better defense from Florida stymied the Golden Knights and they pounced (no pun intended) at their chance late in the third.
Was this the series-changing win the Panthers needed? Game 4 on Saturday will decide if that’s the case with puck drop coming at 8 p.m. ET in Sunshine, Florida.