Headlines galore preceded this game as the Florida Panthers hosted the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time in South Florida. Before the game started, the Panthers honored their founder H. Wayne Huizenga by retiring the number 37 (his lucky number and birth year of 1937). It is the second number to be retired in team history along with number 93 to honor Bill Torrey.
The other storyline was the Vegas Golden Knights who entered Sunrise with the best record in the Western Conference and having defeated the NHL’s best Tampa Bay Lightning the night before. Vegas also is shattering expansion records with each game played and look to soon overtake the 1993-94 Florida Panthers as the best expansion team in league history.
The Knights also brought along three former Panthers. Coach Gerard Gallant, the Pacific Division coach for the All-Star Game this season in Tampa, was given a video tribute during a break in play. Gallant was fired by Florida last season after having previously led the team for two winning seasons including an Atlantic Division title in 2015-16. Reilly Smith also made his return after being traded to Vegas in the previous offseason. And Jonathan Marchessault, the Panthers leading goal scorer in 2016-17, returned as well.
The Game Itself
The game started off with a goal from Jamie McGinn who moved in front of the net and was able to quickly backhand the puck past Knights goalie Malcolm Subban for the 1-0 lead. This was McGinn’s first goal and point since the December 12th game at Chicago. Nick Bjugstad would get the assist and earn his first point since December 28th against Philadelphia.
"This is only the McGinning." -Jamie McGinn when he scored that goal, probably. pic.twitter.com/DX14ZOk9WU— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 20, 2018
After this, the Knights began to show why they are the dominant force out west and this culminated in a goal by David Perron 14:22 into the 1st. This was shortly followed by a hooking penalty by Jared McCann and it looked as if the Knights were ready to begin slaying the Cats. However, Vegas took an arrow to the knee during the power play as Aleksander Barkov once again added to the Panthers shorthanded goal tally. This scoring chance was sparked by Vincent Trocheck who rushed the puck up the ice for a 2-on-1. Trocheck was able to shoot at Subban and Barkov was waiting at the corner of the net to stuff the rebound home.
All-Star Barkov now has 15 goals and 43 points in 43 games. Trocheck has 25 assists and 42 points in 44 games.
After surviving a rare “closing hand on puck” penalty committed by Alex Petrovic early in the 2nd period, the Knights would have their goal scoring leader, William Karlsson, tally his 25th of the season at the 6:54 mark with an one of the assists credited to Reilly Smith who had missed a wide open net from a sweet feed of Marchessault’s earlier in the game.
Las Panteras would then get caught with too much man a short time later and it looked as if the Knights once again would assert their dominance and try to take the lead. Sasha Barkov would not deal the Knights a good hand as his aggressive penalty killing made David Perron trip Barkov which negated the too many men penalty.
The period would end with both teams knotted at 2-2.
A mad rush would see Keith Yandle leading a 3-on-2 with Aleksander Barkov trailing. Yandle fed it to Barkov who shot and Subban made the save. But don't worry because Dad would take care of everything and cleaned up the rebound to put Florida up 3-2.
Evgenii Dadonov’s tenth goal is also his 3rd goal in 2 games. Dadonov also has registered a point in his last 5 games. Barkov got his 27th assist. Keith Yandle has 21 assists and 24 points on the season.
With the Panthers now in the lead, Vegas pushed mightily in the 3rd period and it was apparent the Cats were playing on their heels. This mad scramble to the finish would eventually lead to James Neal tying the game with 2:09 left in regulation. The two teams would push this game into overtime.
The 3-on-3 overtime wouldn’t make it past the first minute as the combination of Jonathan Huberdeau, Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad would finish it at 40 seconds. Ekblad battled and cleared the puck out of the Panthers defensive zone. The pass would find its way to Jonathan Huberdeau who rushed it up the ice with Barkov in unison. Huberdeau would softly float it to Barkov ho backhanded it to Subban. The puck would flutter above the net as Subban made the save and moved to the side of the net. A Knights player would bat it away from the net but the puck magnetized to Ekblad’s stick who fired it into the top left side of the net for the 4-3 game-winner.
Ekblad now has 8 goals and 14 points. Huberdeau has 29 assists and 45 points in 44 games. Barkov made his 28th assist.
- Aaron Ekblad -FLA- Game-winning goal in overtime
- Aleksander Barkov -FLA- 1 shorthanded goal, 2 assists
- James Neal -VGK- Game-tying goal in late 3rd period
PUNTOS DE PANTERAS
- James Reimer earned his 13th win and made 33 saves. Malcolm Subban lost for the 1st time in 8 starts.
- The Panthers padded their shorthanded goal league lead to 9 with 5 of them potted by Barkov.
- The win puts the Panthers 9 points back of the 2nd wild card held by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and 11 points back of 3rd place in the Atlantic held by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- The overtime loss keeps the Knights at 30 wins, 3 shy of tying the ‘93-94 Panthers expansion record of 33.
- A BB&T Center crowd of 17, 468 arrived to see the sports world’s feel-good story of the year.
This was for Wayne.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) January 20, 2018
On the night the Panthers paid tribute to founder and original owner Wayne Huizenga by retiring No. 37, they win 4-3.
It was the 37th time in Panthers history that they won a home game by a score of 4-3.
Los Gatos get the first of a back-to-back against the two top teams in the Western Conference. The Panthers face-off against the defending Western Conference champions Predators from Tennessee tonight at 8:00 pm EST. Keep it here at LBC for coverage of that game and please comment below with your thoughts on the victory against Vegas.