Carter Verhaeghe’s 4-goal night puts the Panthers back in a playoff spot with 5 games left
The Florida Panthers are back in a postseason spot with only five games left in the regular season.
After getting some help from the Bruins earlier in the day when they beat the Penguins, the Panthers got four goals from Carter Verhaeghe and blew out the Columbus Blue Jackets, 7-0, on Saturday in Ohio to jump Pittsburgh for the second wild card.
Although Florida will still need a little bit of help to make the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s a major swing given where things stood for the Panthers earlier this week when a season-worst four-game losing streak left them with a less-than-30 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. Now, they could be in control of their own destiny by the end of the weekend, depending on what the Penguins do against the Flyers on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have played one fewer game than Florida, so they still can guarantee themselves a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs by winning the rest of their games.
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Still, the Panthers (39-31-7) survived a potentially season-crushing skid by winning 3 of 4 on this road trip, including a last-minute comeback and overtime win against the Stanley Cup-contending Maple Leafs on Wednesday. From there, they got to play two of the worst teams in the NHL and took capitalized, beating the Canadiens and Blue Jackets (23-44-8) by 10 combined goals. Now they get to play four of their last five games back in Sunrise and their next three are all against non-playoff teams.
In Columbus, Florida went up 2-0 in the first period and 4-0 by the second intermission in front of 17,860 at Nationwide Arena. Verhaeghe notched the third hat trick of his career; forwards Eric Staal, Sam Reinhart and Nick Cousins added goals; and All-Star center Aleksander Barkov and right wing Anthony Duclair both dished out two assists.