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Huberdeau powers Panthers to 4-3 overtime win over Hurricanes

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Cats “discover” first place in the Central Division

NHL: Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice, including the game-winner, and set up Alex Wennberg with a drop-dead gorgeous pass to lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes and into first place in the Discover Central Division.

With the Panthers down by two thanks to some late first period troubles, Huberdeau beat rookie keeper Alex Nedeljkovic top shelf from the left dot after taking a long pass from Keith Yandle 10:52 into the middle frame to halve the deficit. Goaltender Chris Driedger drew the secondary assist on the power-play goal for his first NHL point.

Huberdeau took a pass from Wennberg and gained the Carolina zone before spinning around in the right circle and hitting his center with a beautiful rod hockey-style backhand dish that the former Blue Jacket slammed into the back of the net to knot the score 3:11 into the third. Patric Hornqvist started the play off by stripping Andrei Svechnikov of the puck in the defensive zone.

The Cats would forge ahead for the first time at the 12:06 mark when Juho Lammikko slipped a routine backhand from a bad angle underneath Nedeljkovic for his first NHL goal. Ryan Lomberg got his first point in Florida garb with a steal just outside the Hurricanes blue zone before he pushed the puck forward to the speedy Finn, who did the rest.

Former Cat Vincent Trocheck got the power-play goal that sent the game to the extra session with 6:21 remaining in regulation. Jordan Staal beat Aleksander Barkov on a faceoff and kicked the puck back to Dougie Hamilton, who dished off to Svechnikov. Svechnikov sent a hard pass down low to the uncovered Trocheck, who deftly deflected it up and over a helpless Driedger.

Driedger finished the game with 32 saves and came up huge a few minutes later when he stopped Martin Necas and then kicked out a pad to deny Nino Niederreiter on the rebound.

Before we get to the overtime winner let’s touch on the other Carolina goals. It looked like the two teams would take a scoreless tie into the first intermission, but a turnover by Aaron Ekblad ended up on the stick of Warren Foegele, who found Staal skating by Ekblad and he beat Driedger up high at 18:28. The Hurricanes struck again 22 seconds later to build a two-goal cushion, outworking the Cats along the boards. Brock McGinn got the puck back to Brett Pesce at the point and his shot was deflected off the ice and the post by Sebastian Aho. There was not much Driedger could do on either goal, especially Aho’s.

The decider came 2:29 into overtime when a well-positioned Barkov picked off a pass in his own end up and then backhanded the puck back up the ice to send Huberdeau off on a breakaway. Huberdeau went backhand to forehand to easily solve Nedeljkovic to give the Cats win number ten at the quarter pole.

Florida’s 10-2-2 record is their best start through the first 14 games of a season in franchise history. The Cats really came through during this tough four-game stretch, beating the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning twice and then overcoming some early adversity against the Hurricanes to earn six out of eight possible points. After a bit of a slow start to the season, Huberdeau, who has produced five points in the last two games, is playing at such a high level he is making a goal-scorer out Wennberg, of all people. Who would’ve thunk it? The Panthers will get a well-earned day off before they play a back-to-back in Detroit on Friday and Saturday against the Red Wings.

Sand Bags & Shutters

  • Florida improved to 5-0-1 on the road, their best record through the first six road games of a season in franchise history. The Panthers are one of two teams, Montreal is the other, without a regulation loss on the road this season.
  • More Jonathan Huberdeau. He reached 20 points in his 14th game of the season, setting a club record for the fastest Panther to reach 20 points in a season.
  • Alex Nedeljkovic finished the game with 33 saves as the Cats matched a season-high with 37 shots on goal.
  • Alex Wennberg has registered four goals and one assist over his past six games as Florida’s second line has grown increasingly deadly.
  • Vincent Trocheck has now scored against every current NHL team.
  • Chris Driedger is one of five Florida goaltenders to post five wins through their first seven starts of a season.
  • For more on this stormer, visit our friends at Canes Country.

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