Vincent Trocheck, still fresh off injured reserve, and Aaron Ekblad each scored a goal and added an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 upset win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Ekblad opened the scoring at 4:05 of the first period with the Panthers on a power play. After playing catch with Trocheck, Ekblad drove a one-timer from center point over the glove of Juuse Saros. The second assist on the historic goal went to Henrik Borgstrom.
Ekblad’s maker was the 62nd of his career, moving him past Robert Svehla into first place in franchise history for goals by a defenseman.
After reeling in a cross-ice pass from Evgenii Dadonov, Ekblad set up Frank Vatrano, who scored in Friday’s win over Toronto, for quick shot from the edge of the right circle that beat Saros 9:11 later.
Trocheck gave the Cats a three-goal lead 2:59 into the middle frame when he broke in on Saros and backhanded the puck between his pads for his first goal since returning from ankle surgery on Friday. Colton Sceviour drew the lone assist on the goal, blocking Mattias Ekholm’s pass, which fortuitously came right to Trocheck.
After James Reimer stopped a whopping 20 shots in the second, Nick Bonino finally got the Predators on the board at 2:45 of the third. Bonino took a pass down low from Roman Josi and pulled Reimer to the ice before he tucked the puck just inside the right post and through a diving Ekblad.
Austin Watson, who had the secondary assist on Bonino’s goal, cut the deficit down to one 38 seconds later with a little deflection of a low shot by Bonino that slightly changed direction along the ice and slipped its way under Reimer.
Florida’s fourth line came up big to restore the two-goal with 9:22 left in regulation. Jayce Hawryluk tracked the puck down behind net and passed off to Sceviour, who curled in front and hit Jared McCann with a backdoor pass that the now 4C knocked in for the clinching score.
The assist was the first of the hardworking Hawryluk’s NHL career and goes along with the three goals he has scored in 15 games since his recall from Springfield.
Reimer, in one of his best starts of the 2018-19 campaign, finished the game with 37 saves, a season-high for him.
With impressive back-to-back wins over Toronto and Nashville, Florida’s ten-day break might be coming at an inopportune time now. The Cats can get back to NHL .500 with a win Monday night at home against San Jose before they take off. I don’t think many of us saw that possibility coming. The return of Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad has given the Panthers four quality lines that they can roll, taking a little pressure of the top guys going forward. One player that can definitely benefit from some time off is Aleksander Barkov, who is pointless in his last four and has just one assist in his last six. Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov have also been a little cold lately, too. If the Cats can beat the Sharks and go into the break with the momentum off a three-game winning streak, can they come back an pull off a major run like they did last season? With a 12-point deficit and four teams to climb over, I’m not convinced, although these last games against quality opponents is causing a flickering of hope.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)