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STUNNER: Ex-Flyers captain Claude Giroux in kissing mood after Cats jolt Caps



Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers

Claude Giroux scored the game-icing goal Wednesday and was in the middle of a stunning rally, putting the Florida Panthers on the brink of winning their grueling first-round playoff series against Washington.

The former Philadelphia Flyers captain had a goal, an assist, a plus-3 rating, and five shots as Florida overcame a 3-0 deficit and jolted the visiting Capitals, 5-3.

He even gave his linemate a kiss on the helmet (see video) after they combined for the game-securing goal.

Yes, the player they call “G” is in his glory in South Florida.

With the win, Florida took a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series. The Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the most points in the regular season, can wrap up the series Friday in Washington.

Carter Verhaeghe had five points (two goals, three assists) and a plus-five rating to lead Florida, which has won the last two games in comeback fashion. He set a franchise record for points in a playoff game.

Giroux has four points (two goals, two assists) over the first five playoff games. The 34-year-old right winger had 23 points in 18 regular-season games after the Philadelphia Flyers traded him to Florida in March.

Wild rally

Florida scored three second-period goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and bring FLA Live Arena back to life.

“We got the fans behind us and got a lot of momentum,” said Verhaeghe, a 26-year-old center who has 10 points in the first five games of the series. He had 24 goals and 55 points in the regular season.

Nicknamed “Swaggy” and drafted by Toronto in the third round in 2013, Verhaeghe set up Giroux on a two-one-one with 4:05 left. The ex-Flyer beat Ilya Samsonov with a slick move to make it 5-3. Verhaeghe had the OT goal in Monday’s comeback victory.

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Sergei Bobrovsky, another former Flyer, made 30 saves to notch the victory.

The Panthers, who led the NHL in comeback wins in the regular season, haven’t won a playoff series since 1996; they get a chance to change that Friday.

“We just have to stay even-keel. We don’t need to do anything crazy, just stick to our game plan,” Verhaeghe said when asked what it would take to finish off the Capitals.

A Washington win would force a Game 7 on Sunday in Florida.

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