The Punxsutawney Spirit

Panthers beat Capitals in overtime in Game 4, tie series

- By Stephen Whyno AP Hockey Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The “Comeback Cats” are back — in playoff form.

Known for their propensity to play from behind and win on the way to the NHL's best regular season, the Florida Panthers finally delivered a little of that magic in the postseason, and not a minute too late.

Sam Reinhart tied it late in regulation, Carter Verhaeghe scored the overtime winner and the Presidents’ Trophywinn­ing Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 4 Monday night to tie the first-round series.

No team had more comeback victories than Florida's 24 this season, and now it has home-ice advantage back going into Game 5 on Wednesday night in Sunrise.

“I feel a lot of trust in them that they’ll make something happen," interim coach Andew Brunette said. "They’ve done it all year and they continued to do it tonight.”

The Panthers were just over two minutes away from facing the prospect of getting knocked out at home. Then, with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky pulled for an extra attacker, Reinhart collected a loose puck after it bounced off Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway and beat Ilya Samsonov with 2:04 remaining in the third period.

“Those are the kind of situations you want to be in as a hockey player,” Reinhart said. “It’s a game that can really go either way at the end of it and we stuck with it and we’re happy with the result.”

Brunette was happy he didn't call Bobrovsky to the bench sooner. The twotime Vezina Trophy winner made a right pad save on Marcus Johansson with 3:24 left — 15 seconds before going off and a few shifts before Reinhart scored.

“It’s huge having him back there," Reinhart said. “He’s been solid all series and gives us all the confidence in the world to make plays.”

Given the combinatio­n of nerves and playoff inexperien­ce that contribute­d to Florida’s struggles in the series, Reinhart’s goal may turn out to be the one that saved its season. Verhaeghe's second goal of the game 4:57 into OT gave the Panthers an extra shot of adrenaline for the flight home.

“We wanted to come in and have our best game of the series, and I think we did a pretty good job," said Verhaeghe, who played eight games in the 2020 playoff bubble for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they won the first of consecutiv­e Stanley Cup titles.

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