The big win was a much-needed palate cleanser after the Panthers blew a 4-1 second period lead in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Roberto Luongo returned after a five-game absence to post a 33-save shutout. Luongo moved past Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito and is now all alone in ninth place all-time with 77.
The Cats were sharp from start to finish. Florida out-shot the Bruins 13-7 and had some good scoring chances, including a shorthanded breakaway by Troy Brouwer, but the strong work of Jaroslav Halak kept the game even through the first twenty minutes.
Mike Hoffman cracked the goose egg 4:21 into the second when he poked in a loose puck after Colton Sceviour threw the puck in front and caught the back of Halak’s pad. The befuddled goalkeeper moved to his left, exposing the puck to Hoffman, who knocked it home for his 13th goal. Jonathan Huberdeau drew the second assist on the play, springing Sceviour with a nifty little bounce pass.
The Panthers went up by two at 13:13 when Mike Matheson went coast to coast, blowing by Ryan Donato and Torey Krug in the process, and beat Halak seven-hole for his second of the season.
Huberdeau stretched his string of multi-point games to six when he took a crossing pass from Keith Yandle and fired a shot from the top of the left circle that leaked through Halak’s pads 2:01 after the stirring Matheson goal. Aleksander Barkov collected the second assist on the play.
Florida wasn’t done yet scoring in the second yet. With Jake DeBrusk off for slashing, Yandle and Barkov combined to set up Hoffman for a one-time, short-side blast from the right circle with five ticks left on the clock. Prior to scoring the goal, Hoffman busted his tail getting back to break a shorthanded opportunity at the other end.
The Panthers tacked on one more in the third when Barkov, after playing catch with Huberdeau, swung a pretty backhand pass from the behind the net to Evgenii Dadonov in the slot and the Russian lifted it high over Halak for his 13th marker. Barkov made a really nice play on this one as Huberdeau’s pass was a little too hard and deflected off his skates and into Halak. The captain calmly fished the puck off the keeper’s pads and rounded the net before finding Dadonov to draw his third assist.
Well, I think we finally saw the team we have been waiting to see for the last two months. The Panthers controlled this game virtually from start to finish and seemed a much more confident bunch with Roberto Luongo between the pipes. Luongo continued to show that when he’s healthy, he’s still got the goods. Lu made high-quality saves on David Pastrnak (in the second period with Cats up by a single goal) and on Danton Heinen’s redirection bid in the third to preserve his shutout. Three-point nights for Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who has 14 points on the homestand, and two more goals for Mike Hoffman. Colton Sceviour had a strong game, especially in the early going and the Panthers special teams excelled, going 2 for 6 on the power play and killing off all four of the Bruins’ man-advantage opportunities. More please...
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)