Florida Panthers Big Breaking News 2022: Florida Panthers win first playoff series since 1996

The beat the Capitals in six games and now face the winner of the Lightning-Maple Leafs series

WASHINGTON — Carter Verhaeghe wheeled his arm into a fist pump and suddenly, 2½ decades of frustration for the Panthers were over

The forward — the hero of Florida’s first-round playoff series with Washington and a game-time decision — scored 2:46 into overtime and the Panthers beat the Capitals 4-3 to win the series in Game 6 on Friday night

Florida got its first playoff series victory since 1996, when it reached the Stanley Cup final, ending the NHL’s record longest playoff drought between series wins, just short of 26 years, since June 1, 1996

The Maple Leafs now own the longest active drought between playoff series wins, 18 years. “It means a lot,” Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov said of ending the drought.

“There’s been a lot of talk about this and not winning any rounds, getting knocked out in the first round and stuff like that. Of course you don’t think about that, but it’s there

“It’s not there anymore, so we’re happy about that and happy to be a part of it. But there’s still a long way to go to the point where we actually want to be.”

The Panthers will have home-ice advantage for their next series against the winner of the Lightning-Maple Leafs series. “They’re going to be big-time challenges,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “It will be a different kind of series.”

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