The Florida Panthers took the lead three times, but always managed to give it right back before eventually losing 4-3 to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.
Jeff Skinner scored the tying goal early in the second period, 27 seconds after Keith Yandle put the Panthers up 3-2, before he won it by rapping in Derek Ryan’s centering feed with 3:55 left in regulation.
The Cats got off to a quick start when Aleksander Barkov deflected Jason Demers’ shot from the point by Cam Ward 1:35 into the action. The goal was Barkov’s 20th of the season, Jaromir Jagr drew the secondary assist for his 40th point of the campaign.
A tripping call on Vincent Trocheck gave Carolina the game’s first power play and they cashed in at the 5:09 mark. After Jordan Staal tipped Sebastian Aho’s pass wide of the net, Teuvo Teravainen was able to put the rebound off the boards by Reto Berra, who was making his first NHL start of the season.
Florida regained the lead 6:42 later when the club’s second line clicked on a pretty passing play that resulted in a Reilly Smith finish. Trocheck carried the puck over the line before flipping a backhand dish to Jussi Jokinen, who lasered a feed through the goal mouth to set the table for the oncoming Smith.
The Hurricanes got another special teams goal to even the score 2:33 after Smith’s tally, this time shorthanded. Aaron Ekblad lost the puck at the Carolina blue line to Elias Lindholm and he found an open Aho, who beat Berra with a slick little backhand.
Yandle put the Panthers back on top 1:14 into the middle frame, when his pass meant for Jonathan Hubderdeau went off Justin Faulk’s stick and into the net. Assists on Yandle’s fifth went to Demers and Jagr.
Skinner got his first 27 seconds later when tucked the rebound of Lee Stempniak’s shot over the goal line after Berra had made a nice stop on the veteran. Jaccob Slavin sent Stempniak away with a nice stretch pass to earn the second assist.
The late Skinner winner came after Michael Matheson denied him a chance int he offensive zone, but the puck came to Ryan who was able to center, after pulling Matheson to the ice, and find Skinner on the doorstep for his second of the night.
The Panthers eighth loss in the last ten games kept them eight points behind Toronto and they failed to take advantage of losses by Phialdelphia and Tampa Bay to at least move up the wild card ladder and keep faint hope alive.
Florida will continue the homestand on Thursday when the Arizona Coyotes make their only visit of 2016-17.
Wind & Water
- Reto Berra stopped 21 of 25 shots in his first NHL start since December 9, 2015, a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche. It was Berra’s second appearance in a Panther uniform.
- Jeff Skinner extended his point-streak to eight games. Skinner has scored five goals over the last three games.
- The Cats tested Cam Ward 36 times, but the veteran settled down after Keith Yandle’s lucky goal and made some key stops to post his 24th win of the campaign.
- After racking up six assists in three games, Thomas Vanek has gone pointless in the last two and finished the tilt with a -3 rating.
- In addition to his helper, which gave him his second straight 50-point season, Vincent Trocheck had three shots on goal and dished out a game-high six hits.
- Canes Country has the other side of the final game of the season series, won by Carolina, for you.