The Florida Panthers made it a perfect 3 for 3 on its current six-game homestand by edging the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime on Jared McCann’s goal that sent a portion of the crowd of 14,265 at the BB&T Center home happy.
Florida opened the scoring 11:02 into first period, taking advantage of Tyler Bozak’s second penalty of the early going. Aleksander Barkov took a pass from behind the net from Jonathan Huberdeau and quickly fired it upstairs past a befuddled Curtis McElhinney, who lost track of what side the puck was on. Vincent Trocheck picked up the secondary assist on the power-play marker that allowed Barkov equal his career-high of 59 points.
Huberdeau added to the Panthers lead a 1:42 into the second period after taking a crisp centering feed from Trocheck and patiently pulling McElhinney to ice before tucking home a backhander. Radim Vrbata, filling for the injured Denis Malgin on the second line, also collected an assist on the play.
Former Panther Dominic Moore forced a turnover by Mike Matheson right by the Florida cage and cashed in on a juicy rebound after Kapersi Kapanen and Leo Komarov were whacking away in front. The goal came just 1:11 after Huberdeau’s tally.
Another player with Florida ties, former draftee Zach Hyman tied the game at the 11:42 mark, thanks to the hard work of linemate William Nylander. Nylander poked the puck away from Evgenii Dadonov in the neutral zone and carried in on Roberto Luongo before dropping a no-look pass to Hyman, who buried it.
The teams combined for 27 shots in the third period, but the game would go to overtime thanks to some timely stops from both Luongo (15 saves) and McElhinney (12 saves).
McCann scored his first goal of 2018 with a beautiful individual effort to give the Panthers the bonus point with 1:13 left in the extra session. Aaron Ekblad bounced a pass over to McCann and he poked it past Nikita Zaitsev and turned Nazem Kadri inside out on his way to the net. He finished things off by ripping a wrister by McElhinney blocker-side for his seventh goal.
The Panthers came up huge in the end after blowing a two-goal lead to pull back within five points of Columbus and still have three games in hand. Third star Roberto Luongo finished with 37 saves to help keep the Cats in it until McCann’s heroics, collecting his tenth win of the campaign. Up next for the Panthers is a back-to-back with the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres on Friday and Saturday.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Rakes & Bags
- The last time Jared McCann lit the lamp before his game-winning overtime goal was on December 28th against the Philadelphia Flyers.
- Speaking of ending droughts, Jonathan Huberdeau ended a run of nine games without a goal and Zach Hyman took care of a ten-game dry spell.
- Curtis McElhinney got the start with Toronto playing its second game in as many nights and finished with 28 saves.
- Vincent Trocheck’s assist on Florida’s first goal gave him 20 power-play points, making him the first Panther to reach that mark since Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann in 2011-12.
- The Panthers are now 10-3 since returning from the All-Star break and have four more wins than regulation losses for the first time this season.
- Toronto defenseman Morgan Reilly led all skaters with six shots on goal and posted a +1 rating.
- Radim Vrbata’s assist on Huberdeau’s goal was his first helper since November 16. Vrbata logged 13:59 TOI and registered two shots on goal in his return to the lineup.
- For more on last night’s Atlantic Division clash, check out Pension Plan Puppets.
Condensed Game (courtesy of NHL.com)