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Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_52137 Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates his goal during the third period of Game 6 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs against the Washington Capitals, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_23962 Washington Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen (3) reaches for the puck against Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the second period of Game 6 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_71499 Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd (26) celebrates his goal past Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the second period of Game 6 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_54911 Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) and Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) battle for the puck during the second period of Game 6 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_00521 Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) tries to shoot the puck with Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov (30) defending during the second period of Game 6 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_58689 Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie, second from right, scores a goal with Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, right, defending during the third period of Game 6 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_21333 Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov (30) blocks a shot by Florida Panthers right wing Patric Hornqvist (70) during the second period of Game 6 in the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon Panthers_Capitals_Hockey_51812 Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd, left, shoots the puck under Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) for a goal during the second period of Game 6 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series Friday, May 13, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon (1/8) Share This Gallery: Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter. Share via email. Print.

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the wrong side of a comeback effort this time, the Florida Panthers rebounded in overtime and made sure they wouldn’t need to go home to finish their first-round series.

Carter Verhaeghe scored the OT winner to send the Panthers to the second round by beating the Washington Capitals 4-3 in Game 6 Friday night. It’s the franchise’s first playoff series victory since 1996 when Florida reached the Stanley Cup Final.

The Panthers are still eight wins from getting back to the final, but they will have home-ice advantage for their next series against either the cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning or the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Florida looked to be on the verge of a regulation victory when Gustav Forsling tripped Nicklas Backstrom with 1:09 left in the third period. T.J. Oshie scored 6 seconds into the Washington power play to send the sellout crowd of over 18,000 into a frenzy.

Those fans were silent after Verhaeghe scored his sixth goal of the series 2:46 into overtime. Verhaeghe, Florida’s leading scorer in the series, missed the morning skate and was considered a game-time decision.

Trade-deadline acquisition Claude Giroux and captain Aleksander Barkov scored in the third period to put the Panthers ahead. Ryan Lomberg scored Florida’s first goal, tying it 2:29 after Nic Dowd got the Capitals on the board.

Lomberg scoring validated interim coach Andrew Brunette’s decision to insert him into the lineup in place of Anthony Duclair, who scored 31 goals during the regular season but had just one shot on goal so far in the series. The Panthers need offense wherever they can get it after again failing to score on the power play and extending their drought to 0 of 18 in the series.

Their most recent series win came June 1, 1996, when they beat Pittsburgh in Game 7 to advance to the final. The Panthers got swept by Colorado, starting what would begin a 26-year wait between series victories.

Other than the expansion Seattle Kraken, every other NHL franchise had won at least two series during that span. Detroit won 27, Pittsburgh 24, Tampa Bay 22 and Colorado won 20. Florida kept waiting and waiting for just one, until Friday.

The Capitals have not won a playoff series since hoisting the Cup in 2018 and got knocked out in the first round at home for the third time in that span.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Rematch round: Blues-Avalanche, Panthers-Lightning up next

Florida Panthers deadline addition Brandon Montour may not have had a rooting interest in Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Many of his teammates who got eliminated by the Lightning were happy to see the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions win to become their next opponent.

“I think a lot of guys wanted to play this team,” Montour said Sunday. “It’s always a battle against these guys, and we’re up for the challenge and everyone’s excited in there.”

Lightning-Panthers is one of two second-round series that are rematches from last year. In the Western Conference, the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche face off against the St. Louis Blues they swept out of the playoffs in the first round in 2021.

“We’ve got to focus on now,” Blues coach Craig Berube told reporters Saturday. “Yeah there’s motivation, for sure, but you’re in the playoffs. You’re trying to win. What more motivation do you need?”

Motivation isn’t a problem for Carolina and Edmonton after also moving on to the second round. The Hurricanes will face off against either the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins, while the Oilers could get the first Battle of Alberta playoff series since 1991 if the Calgary Flames beat the Dallas Stars in Game 7 Sunday night.

LIGHTNING-PANTHERS

Just like last time, Florida has home-ice advantage. It didn’t matter much because Tampa Bay won the first two games in Sunrise on the way to knocking out the Panthers in six.

The Sunshine State rivals split their four meetings during the regular season.

“People especially in Florida have been begging for the two teams to be contenders and go at it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said in Toronto after Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. “They’ve retooled their team and brought some big names in there and it should be a ton of fun. They’re fun to play against, they’re competitive as hell and I think it’s really good for hockey.”

Montour is far from the only player who wasn’t part of the series last year. The Panthers added forward Sam Reinhart last summer and acquired defenseman Ben Chiarot and longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux at the trade deadline, while the Lightning signed Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and brought back defenseman Zach Bogosian before the season before getting deeper at forward in March with Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel.

“These were the kind of matchups that I was excited about making the move down here,” Reinhart said. “It brings out the best and the intensity out of both teams.”

BLUES-AVALANCHE

This was the first matchup of the second round to get locked in after Colorado swept Nashville and St. Louis beat Minnesota in six. It also could be the feistiest, especially in the aftermath of Avalanche center Nazem Kadri concussing Blues defenseman Justin Faulk with an illegal check to the head in the series last year that prompted an eight-game suspension.

Kadri is having a career season, the Blues have already dealt with a series of injuries on their blue line and no one has forgotten that hit.

“You want to win any series,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who is one of a few St. Louis newcomers along with forward Brandon Saad, Pavel Buchnevich and Alexei Toropchenko. “At the end of the day, playoffs are the best part of the year and we get another great crack at it.”

Saad played for the Avalanche last season and had three goals to help beat the Blues. Now Berube is more worried about Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar and Colorado’s big guns at forward: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

There are some similarities to the Wild in style of play, but Minnesota’s skill players don’t have this kind of size.

“That’s the difference,” Berube said. “You’re talking 230-, 225-pound guys that are really good skaters, they’re strong guys. … You want to be physical on them, but there’s going to be times where you’re outmatched physically at times.”

Berube said his team would need to defend hard and also score some goals. The Avalanche know the Blues have plenty of depth offensively.

“It’s a different attack because it’s not just one line that you really have to focus on,” Colorado defenseman Devon Toews said. “They’ve got a full 12 forwards up there that can really score. It’s going to take all four of our lines and all six of our D to stop that and slow it down and then create our offense off of it.”

RANGERS or PENGUINS-HURRICANES

Carolina and New York last met in the best-of-five opening round of the 24-team expanded bubble playoffs in 2020. The fifth-seeded Hurricanes swept the 12th-seeded Rangers.

The Penguins and Hurricanes last met in the playoffs in 2009 — a Pittsburgh sweep in the Eastern Conference final on the way to winning the Cup. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still around from that series, while then-Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour is now their coach and then-20-year-old Penguins center Jordan Staal is Carolina’s captain.

“A playoff series, I guess, against Pittsburgh would be different,” Staal said. “It’ll be exciting.”

STARS or FLAMES-OILERS

Connor McDavid carried Edmonton past Los Angeles with 14 points in the hard-fought seven-game series. The previous time the Oilers and Flames met in the playoffs was almost six years before he was born.

Edmonton and Dallas last played in the playoffs in 2003, a series won in six by the Stars.

“The job’s far from over,” Oilers defenseman Codi Ceci told reporters Saturday night. “We’ll just have to refocus and get ready for the second round.”

Despite starting his career with Dallas and playing two seasons for Calgary, Oilers goaltender Mike Smith’s response to who he’d rather play was a simple, “I don’t really care.”

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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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