Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe come up big as Panthers top Golden Knights in Game 3

The Florida Panthers needed better efforts from their top players if they were going to get back into the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

A little more than two minutes away from falling behind 3-0 in the series, they got that as Matthew Tkachuk tied the game and Carter Verhaeghe scored at 4:27 of overtime on Thursday night for a 3-2 victory. The Panthers cut their series deficit to 2-1 with Game 4 on Saturday night in Sunrise, Florida.

Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had a goal and an assist as Vegas held a 2-1 lead late in the third period and was limiting the Panthers' chances. But Tkachuk, who returned after being knocked out of the game briefly, tied the game with 2:13 left in the third period.

"The gutsiest win I've ever been a part of," Tkachuk told Sportsnet.

Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe is congratulated by his teammates after scoring overtime against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Florida Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe is congratulated by his teammates after scoring overtime against the Vegas Golden Knights.

It was the first Stanley Cup Final win in Panthers history. They had been swept in their lone previous appearance in 1996.

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (25 saves) got back to form after being pulled in Game 2 as Florida went short-handed six times, including a late third-period penalty that carried into overtime.

A closer look at Game 3:

Carter Verhaeghe gets another big goal

Verhaeghe scored the Game 7 overtime goal that completed the Panthers' rally from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round against the No. 1 overall Boston Bruins.

He had no points and was a minus-3 in the first two games of the Final, in which Florida was outscored 12-4. He took a Sam Bennett pass and ripped a shot through traffic past Vegas goalie Adin Hill.

"Over the course of his career, he's gotten the puck off his stick faster than somebody can react to it," Panthers coach Paul Maurice told reporters.

The Panthers improved to 7-0 in the playoffs in overtime.

Matthew Tkachuk leaves game after hit but returns

Tkachuk had knocked Vegas' Jack Eichel out of Game 2 when he hit the Golden Knights center, whose head was down.

Tkachuk had his head down in Game 3 and was about to turn up ice when he was hit by Vegas' Keegan Kolesar in the first period. He stumbled when he got up and went to the dressing room after skating one more shift.

But like Eichel, Tkachuk was able to return to the game, going out for a shift 4:26 into the second period.

Maurice said Tkachuk had been pulled by a concussion spotter and returned after clearing protocol.

Tkachuk scored three game-winners in the Eastern Conference final but had been limited to one goal in the first two games of the Final and received three misconducts.

He was in front of the net when he put a rebound past Hill after the Panthers pulled Bobrovsky for an extra skater.

"You obviously 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," said Eichel, who set up Marchessault's goal with a pass through traffic. "Nobody said it's going to be easy."

New father Brandon Montour scores for Panthers

Montour had flown home from Las Vegas after Game 1 after learning that his wife Ryian had gone into labor. He arrived in time for the birth of their son Kai, then got back to T-Mobile Arena in time for Game 2.

Thursday, as the series shifted to FLA Live Arena, Montour put the Panthers ahead 1-0 at 4:08 of the first period when he wristed a shot from between the faceoff circles past Hill.

That ended a 10-game point drought for Montour, but it was his seventh goal of the playoffs.


Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas returned for Game 3 after being knocked out of Game 2 by an Ivan Barbashev hit. The two received roughing penalties after a collision in the third period. ... The Panthers went back to using 12 forwards and six defensemen in the game. Forward Zac Dalpe returned to the lineup and defenseman Casey Fitzgerald sat out.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup Final: Matthew Tkachuk rallies Panthers vs. Golden Knights