It took a quarter of the schedule, but the Florida Panthers finally won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The scrappy Cats got third period goals from Sean Bergenheim and Jimmy Hayes to claim a much-deserved two points with a 3-2 comeback victory over the visiting Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil got the game's first goal 5:04 into the first period. Neil was left all alone in front of goaltender Al Montoya and easily converted to cap off the crisp passing of David Legwand and Erik Condra.
The Panthers struck back just 47 seconds later when Vincent Trocheck collected his own rebound and threw the puck back to defenseman Dylan Olsen who snapped the puck past Craig Anderson for his first of the campaign. Hayes, who was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Carolina, provided a helpful screen in front.
Trocheck almost gave the Cats the lead minutes later, but was denied by Anderson. The Ottawa keeper stymied the rookie center again early in the second period.
The Senators took the lead back at the 2:41 mark on a Cody Ceci goal. Ceci picked up a loose puck off a deflection of Neil's shot and fired it past Montoya.
Florida pushed back hard after the goal, but couldn't come up with equalizer despite finishing the frame with 16 shots on Anderson, including breakaway opportunities by Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes.
The Cats maintained momentum in the third and finally forged a tie when Bergenheim ripped a pass from Boyes into the net just 34 seconds into the period. Aleksander Barkov picked up the second assist on Bergenheim's third of the season.
Hayes knocked home the winner at 7:31, finishing off a sweet, one-handed feed from Trocheck for his fifth goal. Tomas Fleischmann started the play off by sending Trocheck into the zone with a quick pass. at center ice
The combination of Florida's attack (18 shots) and defense limited the Senators to a mere four shots on goal in the third, giving Montoya. who ended up making 22 saves, a relatively smooth path to his second win as a Panther.
After an evenly played first period, the Panthers dominated this one over the final forty minutes. If not for Anderson, the game would have finished with a score much more in Florida's favor. Fortunately, the offense clicked in the third, and the Cats followed up Wednesday's win over the Hurricanes with another two-point performance. In addition to building their first winning streak, the Panthers achieved another important goal; getting back over the .500 mark at home. They need to keep padding that total as the season goes on. It's been nice to see this resilient club find a way to scrape out points, but it's wins like this, in regulation against a solid division/conference foe, that will really help put this team in playoff position.
Odds & Sods
- Craig Anderson was absolutely dynamite for the Senators, stopping 43 of Florida's season-high 46 shots, including a myriad of high-quality chances to keep the tilt close throughout. Anderson is always tough against his former team.
- Vincent Trocheck was the game's First Star, and deservedly so. The rookie center was a force with two helpers, five shots on goal and three hits.
- Center Derek MacKenzie had fine night in the face-off circle, winning 10 of the 14 draws he took.
- It was an eventful night for veteran Chris Neil. Neil scored a goal, added an assist and tussled with the Panthers' muscle, Shawn Thornton, midway through the second period. The fight seemed to help turn the tide in the Cats' favor.
- After combining for 11 shots against the Hurricanes, the Killer B's line finished this one with ten and tied the game on Bergy's goal.
- Erik Karlsson logged a game-high 27:57 TOI and was on for all three Panthers' goals.
- Jonathan Huberdeau didn't score, but it wasn't from lack of effort. The third-year forward finished with seven shots on goal in one of his best efforts of the season.
- Senators' defenseman Cody Ceci's tally was his first of the 2014-15 campaign.
- The win pulled the Panthers within one point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cats still hold a game in hand on the Buds.
- Check out Silver Seven for a different take on Florida's latest win.