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Greatest Games: Florida Panthers – Rats And A Flying Cat

The Panthers’ stunning run to the 1996 Stanley Cup final took off on Lindsay’s airborne goal.
Glenn Cratty/ALLSPORT/NHL Images

Glenn Cratty/ALLSPORT/NHL Images

No. 1 – April 27, 1996 – Florida 4, Boston 3

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Boston stands out not as just Florida’s first series-clincher during the team’s rat-infested run for the Stanley Cup in 1996. It also produced ‘The Goal,’ still regarded as the greatest in franchise history.

From the start of the matinee on a sweltering Miami day, the Panthers looked to make quick work of the Bruins. Florida’s on-ice “rat patrol” kept busy with a dominant first period and goals by Brian Skrudland and Paul Laus. Boston shifted the momentum with a power-play goal late in the first and tied it midway through the second. Florida regained the lead on Dave Lowry’s power-play goal late in the period, but Boston responded again at 12:29 of the third.

Just over two-and-a-half minutes later, Bill Lindsay scored in what would become a defining moment in team history. The winger collected the rebound from a blocked shot in the neutral zone and headed up ice with only Ray Bourque defending. Tasked with agitating the future Hall of Famer during the series, Lindsay then achieved the rare feat of beating the defenseman on the outside. Bourque’s last-ditch slash at Lindsay’s left skate caused the winger to go airborne in the low slot. Lindsay desperately whacked at the puck while parallel to the ice, sending it between Bill Ranford’s pads and the crowd into a frenzy.

Florida’s shutdown defense preserved the lead the rest of the way. Goalie John Vanbiesbrouck turned aside a last-second shot by Bourque, extending an unforgettable season that lasted until June.

No. 2 – June 10, 1996 – Colorado 1, Florida 0 (3OT)
John Vanbiesbrouck's 55-save effortkeeps the locals up until 1 a.m., only to see the Panthers’ Cup hopes dashed on Uwe Krupp’s triple-OT goal.

No. 3 – April 7, 2012 – Florida 4, Carolina 1
It was a long time coming. The Panthers end 12 years of playoff futility in style with the first division title in franchise history.

GREATEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE OF ALL-TIME

Aleksander Barkov
March 8, 2019 – Florida 6, Minnesota 2
One day after a heartbreaking collapse to Boston that extended Florida’s losing streak to six, Barkov lifted his team from rock bottom with a franchise-record five assists. “Once you get a couple assists or a couple of good plays, you get that confidence,” Barkov said. “The game is not getting easier, but it’s getting more comfortable for you.”

The effort ended up one point shy of Olli Jokinen’s team record of six points in a game (two goals, four assists). What is lost in the game summary, however, is a pair of disallowed goals that would’ve pushed Barkov’s point total to seven.

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