After being scratched in Philadelphia, defenseman Mike Matheson was shifted to forward and responded with a goal and two assists in the Florida Panthers 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils that ended a season-high, four-game losing streak.
Matheson joined 2019 hybrid model Mark Pysyk, who also produced a goal and two assists, and Noel Acciari on a new “helicopter” fourth line (no wings) that powered the Panthers to its 30th win of the season.
Acciari finished the game with his 19th goal and a rare assist.
Brett Connolly bagged his 18th goal, with the assists going to Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman, to tie the game 11:50 into the first period after a power-play goal by this past summer’s number one draft pick Jack Hughes gave the Devils an early lead.
Matheson put the Cats on top with a nice skate to stick goal with 46 seconds left in the opening frame and then set up an unmarked Pysyk 2:43 into the second to briefly give the Panthers some breathing room.
Frank Vatrano scored a big goal, which turned out to be the game-winner, 42 seconds after a wide-open Kevin Rooney pulled New Jersey within one at the 4:17 mark.
Vatrano took a cross-ice pass from Keith Yandle and beat Louis Domingue with a low wrist shot on the glove side from the top of the right circle. It was Yandle’s second assist of the night and Colton Sceviour picked up the secondary helper by sticking with the play and collecting the puck after his shot was blocked before feeding back to the blueliner.
Acciari put the Cats up by three 39 seconds later when he pounced on a rebound in front after Matheson’s shot deflected off Pysyk and put the puck past Domingue.
Kyle Palmieri would complete the scoring with 5:30 left in the middle frame when he split the Florida defensive pair of Josh Brown and Riley Stillman and solved Sam Montembeault five-hole after taking a bullet stretch pass from Will Butcher.
Montembeault made an enormous save on Hughes about 35 seconds after that and ended up turning aside all 13 shots in the third to earn his fifth victory of the campaign.
The win certainly wasn’t Florida’s prettiest of the season, but it was effective and much-needed. They jump-started the offense (despite getting next to nothing from the top line), dominated in the face-off department, limited the Devils to 28 shots, stayed out the penalty box after two penalties in the first 9:16 (a too many men call led to the Hughes goal) and got a solid-enough effort from Montembeault to get a big two points, which allowed them to stay within two of the Maple Leafs, who unfortunately, pulled out a 3-2 overtime win over Arizona.
Heaven & Hell
- Brett Connolly’s goal ended New Jersey’s shutout streak of 147 minutes, 15 seconds and Florida’s win halted the Devils season-high six-game (3-0-3) point streak.
- The Panthers number one line only produced three shots on goal during the game with Aleksander Barkov getting two and Jonathan Huberdeau producing one. Disappointing... Hopefully, they will break out in Thursday against the Flyers.
- Louis Domingue started in place of the red-hot MacKenzie Blackwood and surrendered five goals on 33 shots. The Cats have a tendency to struggle against backup keepers, so this was a welcome change.
- The Cats were pretty careful with the puck last night, which was good to see. They were tabbed with just three giveaways while the Devils were guilty of sixteen. A Trocheck bobble below the Florida goal line did lead to New Jersey’s second goal.
- Joey Anderson picked up his first point of the season on that goal with the centering pass to Kevin Rooney. Damon Severson, Wayne Simmonds and Connor Carrick also had assists for the Devils.
- Speaking of Severson, his helper pushed his point streak to seven games. He could equal the longest point streak by a Devils defenseman with a point in his next game
- Descend a circle or two to visit All About The Jersey for the other side of the coin.