Just when it looked like the Florida Panthers would drop yet another game at Xcel Energy Center, Vincent Trocheck tied the tilt with 4:08 left in regulation and Noel Acciari bagged the winner off a double-deflection with 5.6 seconds left to give the Cats a shocking 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild.
It was Florida’s first win in St . Paul since a 3-2 shootout decision on March 9, 2010 and the first time the Panthers have ever beaten the Wild on the road in regulation.
The victory was the Cats’ fifth in a row and allowed them to open up a two-point lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division. Florida still has a game in hand on the Buds, which they will burn tonight in Chicago while Toronto is idle.
This was an entertaining, back and forth game that saw the Panthers take the lead three times on goals from Keith Yandle, who also dished out three assists, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov, who put the Cats up 3-2 with a power-play deflection from Yandle and Barkov 2:02 into the third period,
Yandle goal was matched by Jared Spurgeon’s power-play rebound with 17 seconds left in the first and Luke Kunin’s shorthanded marker canceled out Barkov’s second period goal.
The Wild would tie the game for a third time on Zach Parise’s power-play goal 2:17 after Dadnov’s and they finally forged ahead at the 7:06 when Kunin beat Sergei Bobrovsky for a second time. Bobrovsky got a piece of Kunin’s shot with glove, but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
Bobrovsky, who finished with 29 saves, had a be a little frustrated during this one as actually he got a piece of three of the four Wild goals and the other was rebound he couldn’t do anything about.
Anton Stralman snapped off a long pass that sprung Trocheck between two defenders and he slid the puck between Alex Stalock’s pads to even things up at 15:52 to set the stage for Acciari’s heroics.
With the clock winding down to towards overtime, Mark Pysyk let go off a shot from the left point that got tipped by Aaron Ekblad and then deflected in off the shaft of Acciari’s stick to give the Panthers two huge points.
Despite some warts - getting pushed around at times, the special teams gave up two power play goals on four attempts and yielded a shorty, surrendering three leads - the Panthers scored some pretty goals early and seized control of the game late to reverse its long history of losing to Minnesota.
In addition to holding down a playoff spot by virtue off its lead on Toronto, the Cats also passed Philadelphia and Carolina in the wild card race.
The Panthers get right back at it tonight against the Blackhawks in Second City in what will be their last game before they Ross and Rachel it for ten days.
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Spiders and Snakes
- Florida is now 2-9-1 with one old school tie in Minnesota in franchise history.
- With his beautiful assist on Yandle’s opening goal, Mike Hoffman now has a nine-game point streak, the longest this season by a Panthers player.
- With two against the Cats, Minnesota has scored 10 power-play goals in its past nine games,
- Alex Stalock (7-2-1) lost for only the third time on home ice this season. Stalock finished with 20 saves on the night.
- Duluth native Dominic Toninato returned to the lineup after missing the Detroit game and registered two shots, three blocks and a hit in 9:55 TOI against his home state team.
- Frank Vatrano and Josh Brown collected assists for the Panthers. Ryan Suter (2), Joel Eriksson Ek, (2), Jared Spurgeon, Eric Staal, Jonas Brodin and Marcus Foligno had helpers for the Wild.
- For more on Florida’s rare win in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, make the icy trek to Hockey Wilderness.