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Panthers eliminate Capitals, advance to second round of playoffs

WASHINGTON — Carter Verhaeghe ended the debate in overtime and the Florida Panthers eliminated the Washington Capitals with a 4-3 victory on Friday night.

In the third minute of overtime, Claude Giroux grabbed the puck behind the net and spun around before joining Verhaeghe in front of goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov. Verhaeghe unleashed a backhand shot that made the red light flicker.

It was Verhaeghe’s second overtime goal of the series. He had also played the heroes in the fourth duel, also disputed in Washington.

The Panthers won that series in six games and advanced to the second round for the first time since 1996.

Giroux finished the game with a goal and two assists while Ryan Lomberg and Aleksander Barkov added a goal each for Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky blocked 34 shots in the win.

Nic Dowd, Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie replied for the Capitals, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. Samsonov gave up four times on 31 shots.

After a scoreless first period, but dominated by the Capitals, the two teams hit the target once each, in the second frame.

Positioned in front of Bobrovsky’s net, Dowd accepted Garnet Hathaway’s pass and sent the puck over the horizontal bar. The return fell in front of him, however, and he pushed the disc behind the red line.

The Panthers’ fourth line responded, however, less than three minutes later. Eetu Luostarinen passed the puck to Patric Hornqvist, who saw his shot being stopped by Samsonov. Lomberg, however, followed the game well and hit the mark on the return.

The Capitals regained the lead in the second minute of the third period. Near the boards, Justin Schultz fired a high shot that was deftly deflected by Backstrom. The Swede was careful not to have his stick higher than the horizontal bar.

Giroux brought both teams back to square one when he took advantage of Samsonov’s largesse. The Panthers striker came on the right wing and he deceived the vigilance of the Russian between the pads.

With less than six minutes left in the game, Giroux worked well in net and passed the puck on the other side to Barkov, who threaded the needle for the Florida squad.

The Panthers thought they could close the books in regulation time, the home team forced overtime on a bizarre streak with 63 seconds left. Evgeni Kuznetsov fired a wrist shot and the puck twirled through the air. Anthony Mantha hit her in the air against the horizontal bar before Oshie took it twice to create the equalizer.