Jared McCann scored the go-ahead goal with 7:15 remaining in regulation to give the visiting Florida Panthers a well-earned 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.
The Panthers absolutely dominated the first forty minutes of action, out-shooting the Devils by a huge 31-10 margin, but they could only solve goaltender Corey Schneider once.
Aleksander Barkov got that goal, shorthanded, with 2:40 left in the second period. Michael Matheson flipped the puck to Barkov and he broke out on a 2-on-1 rush with Colton Sceviour. Barkov wisely elected to shoot and beat Schneider with a wrister low to the glove side.
New Jersey struck back 2:20 into the third period when rookie Nico Hischier took a pass from second-year man Pavel Zacha and worked his way into the slot and beat Roberto Luongo with a quick shot for his fifth goal.
Vincent Trocheck put the Panthers back on top 1:47 later. Trocheck picked off a pass in his own end and lugged the puck up ice before ripping a shot off the post and in to become the first Cat to reach the ten-goal mark. The goal gave Trocheck 12 points (6G/6A) in the last 12 games.
The Devils got a lucky break to tie the tilt at 8:19 when another rookie, Jesper Bratt plucked the puck out of the air, sent it in front and had it bank in off the skate of defenseman Aaron Ekblad, much to the dismay of a frustrated Luongo.
McCann bagged the gamer-winner at the 12:45 mark with the assists going to Dryden Hunt and Matheson. The 21-year-old pivot collected Hunt’s tip of a Matheson pass and sped up the right side. His initial shot was blocked by Andy Greene, but the rebound came right back to him and he shoveled a backhander off Schneider’s pants and into the back of the net.
Although Luongo only faced 25 shots to post his 200th win in a Florida uniform, he did have to deny a few high-quality chances. One of his best saves came right before the first period buzzer when he forced John Moore to smell the glove.
Aside from the lack of finishing power, the Panthers played some of their best hockey of the season during the first periods. Things opened up in the third and the Cats showed some much-needed perseverance by regaining the lead each time the Devils forged a tie. Florida will try to sweep the brief road trip when they face the red-hot New York Rangers, who are 8-2 in their last ten games, tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Fire & Brimstone
- Roberto Luongo became just the second goalie in NHL history to win 200 games with two different clubs. Hall-of-Famer Patrick Roy is the only other netminder to accomplish the feat.
- Rookie Dryden Hunt’s primary assist on the game-winning goal was his first point in the NHL. Hunt’s first-ever point came in his seventh big-league game.
- Corey Schneider finished with 35 saves in the loss. It took the Panthers 30 shots to finally beat him.
- On that note, Aleksander Barkov’s shorty ended a five-game goalless drought. Barkov hadn’t scored since the 4-3 win over Dallas on November 14th.
- The penalty kill ruled the special teams battle with Florida going 0 for 3 on the power play and New Jersey going 0 for 2.
- Michael Matheson’s two assists game him his first multi-point game of the season.
- Pavel Zacha and Damon Severson were the only Devils to register three shots on goal. Vincent Trocheck had a game-high seven for the Panthers.
- All About The Jersey has the dark side of last night’s see-saw affair from Newark.