With the Florida Panthers in the midst of a three-game losing streak, head coach Joel Quenneville shuffled the deck with his forward lines and it paid off in spades as his club routed the Ottawa Senators 6-1 last night at the BB&T Center.
Noel Acciari, who entered the game with five goals, notched his first career hat-trick and Jonathan Huberdeau racked up four assists to power Florida’s offense, which awoke from a week long slumber that cost the team valuable points on this key homestand.
Aleksander Barkov, Mike Matheson and Dominic Toninato also scored for the Cats, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 of 30 shots in his sixth straight start.
Bobrovsky has lowered his GAA to 3.06 and gotten his save percentage up to .903 since Chris Driedger made consecutive starts to open the December slate after being recalled from Springfield.
Acciari scored the only goal of the first period at the 9:42 mark when he slipped the puck home after Keith Yandle collected an errant Huberdeau pass and threw it in front.
The former Bruin would strike again 1:18 into second when he finished off a beautiful Huberdeau deke and pass before Artem Anisimov countered 47 seconds later with Ottawa’s only goal of the night.
Huberdeau would set up Barkov’s power-play marker at 5:41 with a quick backhand pass after Mike Hoffman’s shot rebounded off a couple of Senators standing in front of goaltender Anders Nilsson.
Acciari completed his hat trick at 10:33 when he backhanded the rebound of MacKenzie Weegar’s shot by Nilsson. Aaron Ekblad drew the second assist on the marker.
Matheson and Toninato would tack on fourth and fifth goals before the period ended and the Panthers, up by five, cruised during the third. Huberdeau collected his fourth helper of the night on Matheson’s second of the season while Ekblad drew his second assist on Toninato’s deflection tally.
Florida made full use of its game in hand on Montreal and one of its two on Toronto, vaulting past both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs and retaking third place in the Atlantic Division with 37 points, one better than the two Canadian-based clubs.
The Cats are off until Friday when the face the Dallas Stars in finale of a nine-game homestand that will need yet another victory to see them post a winning record on.
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Law & Order
- Jonathan Huberdeau’s four assists were an NHL career high and gave him an even 400 points in his 500th game. Talk about a milestone night.
- Noel Acciari’s first career hatty came in his 210th career game. It was the first time he scored more than one goal in an NHL game. Acciari is only two away from matching his career-high (10) set in 2017-18.
- After scoring just four times in the last three games, the Panthers scored five goals on 13 shots in the second period.
- Tyler Ennis and Logan Brown picked up the assists on the Senators lone tally.
- Aleksander Barkov’s goal was his 146th, moving him past Stephen Weiss for fourth place in franchise history, and ended an 0 for 10 drought on the power play.
- Anders Nilsson finished the game with 25 saves and saw his record drop to 9-9-2.
- For the sadder side of last night’s tilt, visit Silver Seven, where a shaky defence is on the morning menu.