Carter Verhaeghe scored in overtime Thursday and the Florida Panthers came from behind to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 to avoid a 0-3 Stanley Cup Finals deficit.
Verhaeghe stunned Adin Hill with a shot from the top of the slot as Matthew Tkachuk was in front of the net to give the Panthers their first-ever Finals victory after they were swept away by the Colorado Avalanche in their only other participation in 1996.
The Panthers remain perfect in seven games that ended in overtime since the start of this series.
“Winning in overtime, in front of our fans, feels good. We felt it from the start and we wanted to nurture that energy,” Verhaeghe said.
“We held on and it’s a turning point maybe in the series. We now have to recover and come back with the same effort,” shared Sam Reinhart.
The Golden Knights clung to a 2-1 lead since the end of the second period when that same Tkachuk tied the game with his 11th goal of the playoffs by catching a throwback from Verhaeghe as the Panthers were attacking to six skaters with 2:13 left in the third.
A penalty late in the third period, however, forced Florida into overtime shorthanded. They held on and moments later Verhaeghe closed the books.
“We’ve seen it in the past with Matthew. We feel the atmosphere on the bench, an intensity that something good is going to happen. In overtime, there was a good shot blocked by Eric Staal. We then only needed one shot and we got it,” said head coach Paul Maurice.
“He has a flair around the net. He has quite a throw and he manages to find the free spaces on the ice. He is very fast, but he also knows how to use it well. You saw his throw, a perfect veiled shot, and not everyone has that ability,” Tkachuk pointed out of the overtime hero.
“We remembered our fifth game in Boston. We had a penalty for too many players which was on top of my fault and we needed to clear the penalty to go into overtime, which we managed,” recalled Tkachuk.
The latter had left the game momentarily after being hit hard by Keegan Kolesar in the first period. Tkachuk looked shaken, falling as he tried to get up. He initially stayed in the game, but left for the locker room a few minutes later before rejoining his teammates at the start of the second.
“I loved our third period,” Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said. We have them plenty of opportunities to add to our lead. We just haven’t been able to hammer the final nail into the coffin. They stayed in the game and did a good job. You have to give them the credit. In overtime, you never know what will happen and here we are now at 2-1. ”
Tkachuk also got an assist on Brandon Montour’s goal, which opened the scoring first. For Montour, it was the first point since scoring in Game 1 of the second-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone also had a goal and an assist each for Vegas.
Marchessault, who continues to emerge as a top contender for the Conn-Smythe Trophy, broke a 2-1 tie by scoring on the power play with 5:01 on the clock in the second.
Posted in the circle to the right of the goalkeeper, Marchessault accepted the magnificent pass from Jack Eichel to score in a fourth game in a row. The Quebecer has 11 goals in his last 10 games and has collected at least one point in each of the last eight games, a record streak for a Golden Knights player in the playoffs.
Stone tied the game at 1-1 with 3:57 left in the first period. The Golden Knights captain redirected a shot from Marchessault’s blue line.
Sergei Bobrovsky, kicked out of Game 2 after giving up four times on 13 shots, stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced.
“It’s a big win for us at home and we can now build on it for the future,” said the Panthers goaltender.
“The coach gave a clear game plan for this game and the guys executed it perfectly,” he added.
“He’s been amazing through all the playoffs. Without him we are not even here. I don’t even know how many amazing saves he made for us tonight, at least 10? We are confident with him behind us. He is extraordinary,” Verhaeghe praised Bobrovsky.
Paul Maurice made sure to remind reporters in his own way that Bobrovsky was his trusted goalie by asking members of the media if anyone was going to ask him this time who his Game 4 goalie was going to be. Obviously, there was only laughter in the room after this declaration.
Hill meanwhile made 20 saves in front of the Golden Knights net.
The fourth game of the series will be held on Saturday evening.