NHL: Carter Verhaeghe nets OT winner as Panthers rally past Pens

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Carter Verhaeghe scored two goals — including the winner 1:37 into overtime — to lead the host Florida Panthers to a season-opening 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Verhaeghe came off the bench, took a pass from captain Aleksander Barkov and beat the glove of Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith (34 saves). Jake Guentzel had skated over to challenge Verhaeghe, but it was too late.

Florida also got two goals from Aaron Ekblad and one from Anthony Duclair, as well as 43 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Penguins, who trailed 2-0 midway through the second period, got four straight goals — two that caromed off Panthers defensemen. The goals were from Danton Heinen, Jeff Carter, Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues.

Carter’s shot went in off the stick of Ekblad. Guentzel, in his first game back from the COVID-19 list, scored off MacKenzie Weegar’s leg.

Pittsburgh played without superstar forwards Sidney Crosby (wrist surgery) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery), as well as Zach Aston-Reese (COVID-19 protocol) and Mike Matheson (lower body).

Verhaeghe’s well-screened shot was the only score of the first period. DeSmith never saw the puck.

The Panthers made it 2-0 with 3:57 expired in the second on a play that started with Gustav Forsling’s shot block. Frank Vatrano scooped up the puck and pitched ahead to Duclair, who was poke-checked by DeSmith. However, the Panthers caught a break when the puck bounced in off Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman.

Pittsburgh cut its deficit to 2-1 with 11:45 elapsed in the second on Heinen’s power-play goal. Just prior to Heinen’s goal, Florida had killed off 29 seconds of a 5-on-3. But after Weegar was hit with a double minor — roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct — Heinen cashed in from the right circle with a wrist shot that soared over Bobrovsky’s right arm.

The Penguins tied the score 2-2 with 62 seconds left in the second on Carter’s goal.

Pittsburgh scored twice within 30 seconds midway through the third period. Guentzel, from behind the goal line, rifled the puck in off Weegar after getting robbed by Bobrovsky. Rodrigues then scored on a scrum.

Ekblad, who has scored double-figure goals in six of his first seven seasons, tied the score with his two tallies less than two minutes apart.

–Field Level Media

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