Mike Hoffman scoring the tying goal and set up two others including Aaron Ekblad’s game-winning marker 26 seconds into overtime as the Florida Panthers opened a three-game road trip with a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
After switching dressing rooms during the afternoon, former Panther Derick Brassard put his new team ahead 3-2 at the 7:49 mark of the third period. Brassard was left all alone in front and easily converted a pass from Ryan Graves for his first goal in a Colorado uniform.
Hoffman evened things up 4:08 later when he took a cross-ice feed from Keith Yandle and beat Semyon Varlamov short side from the lower left circle. The Cats leading goal-scorer earned this one, carrying the puck deep into the Avalanche zone before centering out into the slot for Evgenii Dadonov, who misfired on a one-timer. AsYandle collected after the whiff, Hoffman worked his way back in front to get open for the pass. The second assist on the goal went to MacKenzie Weegar.
The deciding goal came after an Colorado face-off “win” in the Panthers zone. The puck traveled backwards into empty space and Hoffman roared up ice to stake claim to it. He curled up on Samuel Girard in the left circle and threaded a backhand pass through to Ekblad, who fired it between Varlamov’s pads for his 11th goal.
After a scoreless first period, things opened up in the second and the hosts grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals from Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen.
Troy Brouwer finally got the Cats on the board 4:31 after Rantanen’s tally when he took a pass from Yandle, after a Weegar hold and dump around on the other side, and quickly fired a low shot around the Avs winger that eluded Varlamov.
Nikita Zadarov set the Panthers up with a power play at 18:33 and Dadonov made them pay 1:02 later. Varlamov denied a Hoffman drive, but Dadonov was able to whack it home the rebound it came off the keeper and Aleksander Barkov’s skate.v
Roberto Luongo stopped 36 shots, including a fine glove stop on Nathan MacKinnon, to collect his 485th career win, moving past Ed Belfour into sole possession of third place in NHL history. Congrats, Lu!
Hats off to the Panthers for coming back twice and scoring four on Varlamov, last week’s NHL First Star, to get this win, a historic one for Luongo. It took them 61 games, but the Cats are now three games above NHL ,500 for the first time this season. Big night for Hoffman, who repaid the Cats for not trading him away with his 27th goal and two helpers. Overall, Florida played pretty well, despite the usual gaffes leading to goals. There was the leaving of Brassard wide open, Jost got away from his check on the first goal and Jayce Hawryluk failed to get the puck in deep as his teammates were changing, leading to the Rantanen goal. Hawryluk did make amends by drawing the penalty on Zadorov, The Cats are now eight points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand on Carolina and could close that gap further with a win tonight in Glendale, a Hurricanes loss to Los Angeles and a Pittsburgh loss to Columbus. Serious scoreboard watching on tap for tonight. Cross you fingers...
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)