Tkachuk scores late, Verhaeghe wins it OT to give Cats 3-2 win


The Florida Panthers celebrate on the ice after Carter Verhaeghe scored to win game three.

Matthew Tkachuk scores late in overtime and Carter Verhaeghe scores in the opening minutes of overtime to win game three of the Stanley Cup Finals 3-2. It was a crucial win for the Cats, who now trail the Vegas Golden Knights two games to one in the best-of-seven series. It was the first Stanley Cup Finals win in franchise history after starting out with six straight losses (four of those came in 1996).  It was also the first home Stanley Cup Finals game for the Panthers since, ironically, June 8, 1996 when they lost game three to the Colorado Avalanche on route to getting swept in the series. 

The Panthers opened the scoring first. Brandon Montour, who had entered this game without a point in his last nine contests, took a long shot from the blue line that got past Adin Hill. The goal gave Montour ten points in the playoffs, a franchise record for a defenseman. It made this week even more eventful for Montour. During game one in Vegas on Saturday night, Montour’s wife went into labor. He flew home following the game and was in Florida by 6:30 the next morning. They gave birth to their first child, Kai, at noon. Then he jumped on a plane, headed back across the country to Las Vegas, and was back on the ice for game two less than 24 hours later.  

“That’s for my baby boy,” Montour said after the game.

The Golden Knights controlled for a majority of the game. They played tough and physical. They got to the net, limited offensive chances for Florida, and held them to just 13 shots on goal through the first two periods. They forced Florida to take far too many penalties and made them pay. On a four on three man advantage in the first, captain Mark Stone got his stick on a Jonathan Marchessault shot and redirected it past Sergei Bobrovsky to tie the game. In the second, Marchessault scored to make it 2-0. With 2 minutes and 43 seconds left in the third period, Matthew Tkachuk redirected a shot into the net and scored his eleventh of the playoffs to tie the game. Early in overtime, Carter Verhaeghe beat Adin Hill with a wrist shot to win the game. It was his fourth career overtime goal. 

“Over the course of his career, he has gotten a puck off his stick faster than somebody can react to it,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Verhaeghe. “When you get to overtime, nobody’s beefing you for a better play. Just shoot the damn puck.”

It was an eventful game for Tkachuk, who left in the first period after taking a hit from Keegan Kolesar. He returned midway through the second period. Radko Gudas returned for Florida after leaving games one and two early due to injuries. They were far better than they were in game one and two, where they were outscored 12-4. Bobrovsky made 25 saves.

“I mean, they all counted us out before the Final even started,” Tkachuk said. “We’re that type of team where we know what the end goal [is]. We don’t know how we’re going to get there, but we’re going to do everything we can to get there.”

Vegas played well enough to win but that late goal cost them and took away some energy and momentum. They struggled in overtime. Hill made 20 saves.

“Give them credit. They stuck around, they found a goal at the end and then they won in overtime,” Vegas forward Jack Eichel said. “Obviously, you don’t want to blow a lead when you’re up a goal with a few minutes left, but it’s all part of it. Nobody said it was going to be easy.”

Game four will be in Florida at 8:00 E.T on Saturday with the Panthers trying to even up the series. Game five will be back in Vegas on Tuesday. Game six, if necessary, will be in Florida a week from today.