SUNRISE, Fla. — Overtime. Season on the line. The Florida Panthers keep finding ways to flourish in those moments.
And for the first time, they’ve won a game in the Stanley Cup Final.
Carter Verhaeghe snapped a wrister from the slot into the high back of the net 4:27 into overtime and the Panthers rallied to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Thursday night in Game 3. Vegas still leads the series 2-1, but Florida has life and found a way to turn overtime into its favorite time once again.
The Panthers are 7-0 in these playoffs in OT — actually winning more games in extra sessions than they’ve won in regulation.
“We’re the Cats,” Verhaeghe said. “We have whatever lives we have, but it’s awesome. It shows how great our team is and the guys on our team have no quit in them.”
Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner with Tkachuk providing some traffic in front of the net.
“I had a little bit of time to walk in and shoot,” Verhaeghe said. “I’m so happy it went in.”
Game 4 is Saturday night.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.
Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.
His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.
The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.
It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.
Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.
Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.
But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.