After Petr Mrazek first stopped Vincent Trocheck, then robbed Mike Matheson with a desperate poke-check and then denied Jonathan Huberdeau on a breakaway, Aho and Nino Niedereitter went the other way on a 2-on-1 break. Niedereitter was able to feed a backhand pass across to Aho when Keith Yandle took a tumble and Carolina’s leading scorer put the puck past Samuel Montembeault for the winner.
Henrik Borgstrom scored twice and drew an assist on Florida’s other goal in his best NHL performance to date. It was the first multi-goal and multi-point game of his young career.
Borgstrom second goal of the night 5:32 into the third period gave the Cats a 3-2 lead. Jamie McGinn wiped out Trevor van Riemsdyk in the left corner to claim Dryden Hunt’s dump in and then found Borgstrom in the slot with a behind-the-back pass and the rookie swept the puck home for his seventh of the season.
Brett Pesce cashed in on some puck luck to tie the game with 11:41 left in regulation. Jordan Staal rag-dolled Trocheck at center ice and gained the Florida zone and then threw the puck down low, where it deflected off Mark Pysyk and then Pesce before dropping to the ice. Pesce was able to gain control and backhanded a rising shot by Montembeault.
In a bit of a surprise, Montembeault made his first NHL start and finished with 22 saves. His teammates hung him out to dry with some terrible defensive work in the early going, but he settled down as the game went on and helped his club earn a point.
Brock McGinn intercepted Matheson and stripped Yandle of the puck in short sucession before firing a shot just inside the right post, beating the rookie keeper just 1:26 into the action.
Former Panther Greg McKegg cruised into the slot with no one around him to finish off Lucas Wallmark’s pass from behind the net 39 seconds later to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.
After Pysyk broke up a play in the Florida end, Borgstrom would take a short pass from Dryden Hunt in the neutral zone and speed into the left circle before beating a lazy looking Mrazek at the 5:01 mark with a well-placed shot just under the cross bar.
Borgstrom would win an offensive draw and McGinn slid the puck back to Pysyk and his shot from the point eluded Mrazek to even things up at the 11:50 mark. It was Pysyk first goal since December 17, 2017. That’s a long time.
After an absolutely and almost incomprehensible terrible start (with a rookie goalie making his first NHL appearance in what was a very, very important game ), the Cats played pretty well the rest of the way, but once again couldn’t hold a lead in the third or come up with a goal when they needed it the most. While Florida’s third line provided all the offense, the top six couldn’t produce on a night where one more score would have made the difference against red-hot Carolina. It was for lack of trying. The Panthers finished with 34 shots on goal and Aleksander Barkov won a staggering 14 of 15 faceoffs. The lost point dropped the Cats ten behind current wild card holders Pittsburgh and Montreal. Florida, who has played less games than both, must end this run of post-regulation losses and tack care of business against lowly Ottawa today.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)