The Florida Panthers kicked off its five-game road trip out west with a key 5-3 win over the golf course-bound San Jose Sharks.
Evgenii Dadonov put in his own rebound after he was whacked in the face by Brent Burns to give the Panthers the lead 4:52 after opening puck drop. Frank Vatrano found Dadonov alone in front with a nice backhand pass to get the primary assist while Aaron Ekblad collected the secondary.
The Sharks tied the score at 11:30 thanks to back-to-back turnovers by Sergei Bobrovsky and Dominic Toninato behind the Florida net. Alex True and Antti Suomela worked the puck in front to Dylan Gambrell and he easily fired it home.
Aside from that gaffe, Bobrovsky came up big for the Cats in the opening stanza, stopping 11 of 12 shots, including a quite few from high danger areas.
Bob stopped 13 more shots in the middle frame, allowing the Panthers to retake the lead at the 11-minute mark when Mike Hoffman swiped an ill-advised Burns crossing pass and went the other way before slipping a shot along the ice through Aaron Dell’s pads to complete the breakaway with a flourish.
The Panthers finally picked up their intensity in the third period and were rewarded at 10:04 when Ekblad got the puck out of the defensive zone and Denis Malgin’s little backhand pass sent Colton Sceviour into the Sharks end one-on-one with defenseman Tim Heed. Sceviour fired on Dell and kept an eye on the puck while continuing on to the net to backhand in the juicy rebound before Heed and Dell realized where the puck was.
An iffy cross-checking penalty on Malgin just over four minutes later put San Jose on the power play and the Sharks converted at 14:34 to pull back within one. Burns intercepted Ekblad clearing attempt at the blue line and sent a pass down to Kevin Labanc at the top of the right circle. MacKenzie Weegar got a big chunk of Labanc’s shot, but the puck fluttered up and over Bobrovsky, who had no chance. Unlucky...
Aleksander Barkov blocked a shot and passed off to Jonathan Huberdeau, who led the rush up ice before finding late trailer Anton Stralman with a fine cross. The big defender calmly put the puck off the post and in for his fifth goal, restoring Florida’s two-goal advantage with 3:54 left in regulation
As we’ve come to expect, it’s seldom ever easy for the Cats and the Sharks would get one more when Joe Thornton’s cross-ice feed found Timo Meier and he chipped a backhander by Bobrovsky, who could’ve played this one much better, for his 20th goal with 100 ticks left on the clock. Burns drew his second helper of the afternoon on the play.
With time running out, Vincent Trocheck took a pass from Stralman and fired a long shot through the skates off Marc-Edouard Vlasic to finally secure the victory. Not sure why Stralman didn’t an assist on the goal, maybe that’ll get updated today.
The Panthers were a little sloppy in the first and a bit sleepy over the first forty minutes, but played really well in the third period, dominating the first half of the frame and then coming up with a quick strike after Labanc’s lucky goal to best former head coach Bob Boughner. The last Sharks goal simply can’t happen going forward. Dadonov got beat by Meier and Bobrovsky wasn’t in proper position. Fortunately, the lapse didn’t derail what turned out to be an important win as the Cats crept back within two points (with a game in hand) of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of a national television audience tonight.
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Tales & Fins
- The Panthers are now 3-6-1 since the All-Star break. All three wins have been by the same 5-3 score.
- Jonathan Huberdeau picked his 50th assist of the season and Aleksander Barkov got his 40th on Anton Stralman’s game-winning goal. Three of Stralman’s five goals are of the GWG variety. Huberdeau joined Barkov as the second player in Panthers history to have multiple seasons with at least 50 assists.
- Despite giving up three goals, Sergei Bobrovsky had a strong game in net for the Panthers, finishing with 29 saves to pick up his 21st win. It was his first victory since beating Toronto on February 3.
- With the loss, Aaron Dell fell back to NHL .500 with a 12-12-2 record. Dell stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced.
- Aaron Ekblad logged a team-high 24:59 TOI and finished with two assists - which set a new career-high of 29, a block and three takeaways to earn First Star honors.
- Sail over to Fear The Fin to get the other side of Florida’s season series sweep. You won’t need a bigger boat.