Florida took full advantage of the situation, much to the delight of fans at FLA Live Arena.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored a power-play goal and racked up four assists; Anthony Duclair scored twice and added an assist; and Aleksander Barkov notched a shorthanded goal and drew a helper to power the Cats to the easy win, which saw them score three times in each period to trounce the Bolts.
Anton Lundell, Eetu Luostarinen and Frank Vatrano also added multi-point performances with each of the trio of forwards producing a goal and an assist.
Also scoring goals for the Cats were Maxim Mamin and Aaron Ekblad. Assists went to MacKenzie Weegar (2), Samson Reinhart, Mason Marchment, Carter Verhaeghe, Ryan Lomberg, Radko Gudas and Brandon Montour.
Spencer Knight made 39 saves to collect his seven win of the season in his first start after returning from a short stint in Charlotte.
With both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott on the shelf, journeyman Maxime Lagace got the start and surrendered six goals on 27 shots. Rookie Hugo Alnefelt made his first NHL appearance while mopping up in the third period and was beaten by Duclair, Ekblad and Barkov with the masterful passing of Huberdeau setting up all three goals.
Zach Bogosian, Steven Stamkos and Brayden point were the goalscorers for the Lightning, who trailed 3-1 after the first period and 6-2 after the second. Ondrej Palat (2), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, Ross Colton and Alex Killorn picked up assists.
The big win left the Cats just two points behind the Bolts with a game in hand. Up next for Florida is a New Year’s Day matinee against the lowly Montreal Canadiens.
Flash & Dash
- Florida’s nine goals are the NHL season high. The Cats are now 16-3 on home ice this season. 15 of 18 Panthers skaters collected at least a point in the rout.
- It was the first time the Cats have ever ended a game with nine goals. The franchise record is 10 against the Boston Bruins on November 26, 1997.
- Anthony Duclair’s game-opening breakaway goal 2:10 into the first period was the 100th of his career. Duclair added two points in the third to make sure his mother had a happy birthday.
- Victor Hedman finished the game with an ugly minus-six rating. The big defenseman logged 23:58 TOI and matched Steven Stamkos with a game-high five shots.
- Jonathan Huberdeau posted his fourth career five-point game and second this month. Huberdeau leads the Panthers in assists (27) and points (38).
- 20-year-old Swede Hugo Alnefelt stopped 7 of 10 shots. Alnefelt came into the game with just 6 games of AHL experience. Defenseman Darren Raddysh also made his NHL debut and went -1 in 14:57 TOI.
- Florida has now taken five of a possible six points against Tampa Bay. Read more about it at Raw Charge.