The Florida Panthers had Carter Verhaeghe back in their lineup against the Capitals on Friday night after he missed the morning skate.
Florida’s playoff hero from the previous two games did it again in Game 6.
The Panthers, who found themselves trailing in the third, scored twice to take a lead only to see the Capitals tie the score with 1:02 left to force overtime.
Call him Swaggy, Swagieux or Sir Swagalot — it simply does not matter as Verhaeghe became a Florida postseason hero once more as he scored in overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 win — and the series victory.
It is the first playoff win for the Florida franchise since it won Game 7 in Pittsburgh to win the 1996 Eastern Conference championship.
The Panthers will now open the Eastern Conference semifinals at home — perhaps on Tuesday night — against the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and host Toronto Maple Leafs.
Florida had been 0-3 in Game 6 during the first round in its history, previously losing to the Devils (2012), Islanders (2016) and Lightning (2021).
The only first-round win for the Panthers came when Bill Lindsay scored to beat the Bruins in Game 5.
The Capitals came out hard — as expected — and were hitting anything in a white jersey.
Aaron Ekblad ended up leaving the game off a hit from Alex Ovechkin hit on his first period while Chiarot was taken out along the boards by Garnet Hathaway.
Both players missed the end of the period but returned for the second.
The first period was scoreless but Washington dictated the pace of play with Sergei Bobrovsky keeping his team in it despite yet another slow start in this series.
Washington ended up striking first 3:44 into the second, Nic Dowd pushing in a loose puck past Bobrovsky as he followed up his own rebound from the left circle. Bobrovsky lost sight of the puck as it sat between his skates with Dowd rushing in and knocking it in.
That goal snapped Bobrovsky’s personal save streak at 34 consecutive stops dating back to the second period of Game 5.
Florida answered back in quick fashion with Ryan Lomberg putting an exclamation point on his return to the lineup by knocking in a fat rebound off a Patric Hornqvist shot at 6:13.
Both teams had power play chances in the second with Florida continuing its series-long drought with the man advantage.
Nicklas Backstrom gave the Capitals the lead back, deflecting a shot from Justin Schultz from inside the blue line 1:37 into the third.
Florida tied things up again midway through the period, Claude Giroux putting one through Ilya Samsonov’s skates on a soft pass from Aaron Ekblad as the two entered the Washington zone.
Verhaeghe got the secondary assist on the Giroux goal, giving him five goals and 11 points — setting the franchise record for most points in a single postseason series.
With the game tied, Washington came close to retaking the lead when Dowd stole the puck deep in the Florida zone, walked in on Bobrovsky and clanged one off the cage.
Florida then brought the puck down, Sasha Barkov circling the net and getting it up the ice.
MacKenzie Weegar took a long shot with Giroux grabbing the rebound and sliding it through traffic to Barkov who banged one past Samsonov for the Panthers’ first lead of the night.
The Caps pulled Samsonov with 2:20 left to gain the extra skater — and Florida went down one when Gus Forsling got called for tripping with 1:09 remaining.
Six seconds later, Anthony Matha racked one off the post but T.J. Oshie was right there to tie it up.
The Capitals’ comeback was reminiscent of Florida in Game 4 when it pulled Bobrovsky and got the game-tying goal.
Only in this situation, Washington got a power play with Forsling in the box — giving it six skaters to Florida’s four. The Capitals used that number advantage in a big way as they flooded the goal to get the game-tying score.
Giroux was a big part of the game-winning goal as he sent a pretty pass from the end boards to a slashing Verhaeghe. He got his sixth goal of the series and 12th point when he backhanded the puck past Samsonov.
GR’S THREE STARS OF GAME 6
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
2. Claude Giroux, Florida
3. Sasha Barkov, Florida
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS V. MAPLE LEAFS or LIGHTNING
- Game 1: TBA
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: National TV TBA (ESPN or TNT/TBS)
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
FLORIDA WINS SERIES 4-2
Al Horford, Marcus Smart won’t be available for Celtics in Eastern Conference Finals Game 1; Heat will be without Kyle Lowry
The Boston Celtics say Al Horford and Marcus Smart are both out for Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat, who will also have Kyle Lowry (hamstring) out of action, on Tuesday night in Miami.
Horford is in the league’s health and safety protocols, the team announced. And Boston is prepared for the likely scenario of him remaining in the protocols through Game 2 on Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Smart won’t play due to a midfoot sprain suffered in Boston’s Game 7 win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
Smart, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had been listed as questionable for the series opener, with coach Ime Udoka saying Monday that the veteran guard’s foot was “tender and sore” and that he was set to receive round-the-clock treatment for it before testing it ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Horford’s absence, meanwhile, comes as a surprise — and it’s a significant one. He had a big series against the Bucks, including 30 points in a Game 4 win. And he contested 159 shots as the closest defender in the series, the highest mark for any player in a series since Second Spectrum began tracking the stat in 2013-14.
This marks the third time Horford has been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols. He tested positive for COVID-19 during the preseason, and then was placed in the protocols again in December.
Boston will have Robert Williams III available. The center has blossomed into a huge part of Boston’s team this season, playing 61 games while averaging 10 points and 9.6 rebounds — all career-highs. But he missed the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left knee, and then missed time against Milwaukee with a bone bruise in the same knee. He was available for Game 7 against the Bucks but did not play.
Sources told Wojnarowski that Williams had a couple good days of practice and should be able to play significant minutes in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
News of the absences of both Smart and Horford had an immediate sports betting impact. The Game 1 point spread moved from Heat -2.5 to Heat -4 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Charles Barkley picks Mavericks over Warriors for interesting reason
Barkley’s interesting reason for picking Mavs over Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Charles Barkley made his pick during “Inside the NBA” on Sunday after watching the Mavericks’ shocking Game 7 upset over the Phoenix Suns — and he thinks Dallas is well on its way to another playoff stunner.
But his reason why might surprise you.
“I think the Mavs are going to be better at small ball because of Luka [Dončić]. Nobody can handle that dude one-on-one,” Barkley said. “And if [Jalen] Brunson and [Spencer] Dinwiddie keep playing like they’re playing, this team is going to be tough to beat.
“So I’m going with the upset. I’m going with the Mavs.”
It’s true that the No. 3-seeded Warriors will have their work cut out for them with the No. 4-seeded Mavericks, but Barkley’s assumption that Dallas will prevail when it comes to small ball is questionable at best.
Golden State has been known for its small-ball efficiency not only this postseason but in past years as well, first with the original “Death Lineup” that featured Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala — a blend of smaller players who were still versatile enough to hold their own against larger opponents.
That strategy was reborn this season as the Warriors’ high-scoring, small-ball lineup of the Splash Brothers, Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole decimated the Denver Nuggets during the opening playoff round.
The Dubs were forced to go big in the semifinal round, however, in order to power past the Memphis Grizzlies and advance, with Kevon Looney stepping up in a huge way to bully and bash his way to a game-saving 22 rebounds against the Ja Morant-less lineup in Game 6.
And while it remains to be seen how Golden State’s new small-ball lineup will fare against the Mavericks — if the five see the court together at all — Barkley would be smart to remember the Warriors’ reputation when it comes to big things coming in small packages.
As far as “nobody” being able to handle Dončić, the Warriors are up for the challenge no matter who’s on the floor.
Liverpool beat Southampton to take title race to final day
Jurgen Klopp rated Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League as “not likely but possible” after the under-strength quadruple chasers took the title race to the final day of the season with a 2-1 win against Southampton on Tuesday.
After Liverpool defeated Chelsea on penalties in a gruelling FA Cup final just three days earlier, Klopp took a gamble with nine changes at St Mary’s.
Despite effectively fielding a reserve team and trailing to Nathan Redmond’s early strike, Liverpool hit back through goals from Takumi Minamino and Joel Matip.
The Reds are just one point behind leaders Manchester City, with both teams having one game left.
A title race for the ages will go City’s way if they win against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Klopp insisted at the weekend that he does not expect City to drop points against Villa.
But Liverpool would be crowned champions for the second time in three seasons if they beat Wolves at Anfield and City fail to win.
“Of course it is unlikely because City play at home against Aston Villa, who play only on Thursday. It is possible, not likely but possible. That is enough,” Klopp said.
“It is our last home game of the season, the atmosphere will be outstanding, and we will try to use it.
“Of course it could happen. Football is a tricky game sometimes. The only chance we had tonight was to win. We did our job. We never give up.”
Klopp’s side will be expected to do their part of the equation against Wolves, especially now their refreshed key players can return to the team.
Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz, Andrew Robertson, Thiago Alcantara and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among those left out against Southampton, while Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk were sidelined with injuries suffered at Wembley.
“I never had a group like this. They push each other constantly. In the end, it is absolutely outstanding and tonight is really special,” Klopp said.
“We would have had much more problems today if we’d played the guys who played 120 minutes on Saturday.
“If it hadn’t worked out, it would have been 100 per cent my responsibility. Now it worked out and the boys should be really proud of that.”
– History bid –
City boss Pep Guardiola said he planned to watch the game on television and if he tuned in, it would have made for frustrating viewing as Southampton squandered the lead.
But it was Riyad Mahrez’s missed penalty in the final minutes of City’s 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday which had given Liverpool renewed hope of catching the leaders.
And the Reds, hoping to become the first English club to win all four major trophies in one season, will settle their bid for historyin the last two games of their incredible, marathon campaign.
First, Liverpool will try to avoid a repeat of 2019, when they beat Wolves on the last day but were still pipped to the title by City.
Then they head to Paris to face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28.
Liverpool were hit on the break when Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side took the lead after 13 minutes.
Redmond sprinted away down the left flank, cutting inside to the edge of the area and unleashed a fierce strike that took a deflection off James Milner as it flashed into the far corner.
With their title hopes in jeopardy, Liverpool showed the desire and character that inspired Klopp to label them “mentality monsters”.
Japan forward Minamino made the most of a rare Premier League start with a brilliant equaliser in the 27th minute.
Joe Gomez fizzed a pass into Jota and his perfectly weighted lay-off reached Minamino, who beat Alex McCarthy at the near post with a ferocious rising drive.
Liverpool’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 67th minute.
Matip and Kyle Walker-Peters challenged for Tsimikas’s corner and the ball looped in over McCarthy, forcing City to keep the champagne on ice for now.
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