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Panthers regain first place with 3-1 win over Stars

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Cats shell Anton Khudobin to leapfrog Hurricanes

Dallas Stars v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Florida Panthers shook off an early deficit and strafed goaltender Anton Khudobin in a 3-1 victory that was a little more one-sided than the final score indicated. Florida’s 12th win of the season pushed them past the Carolina Hurricanes and back into the top spot in the Central Division.

Dallas, playing for the first time in nine days, took the lead 4:29 into the tilt when Chris Driedger made a nice pad stop on Jason Robertson’s low drive, but couldn’t corral the rebound, and Blake Comeau swooped in to knock the puck into the net.

Driedger would come up with a big save on Denis Gurianov later in the period to keep the Cats within one.

In the second period, the Cats would erupt for a franchise record 29 shots, while holding the Stars to a mere four, and solve the stingy Khudobin twice to take a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Aaron Ekblad tied the game 8:41 into the middle when he took a pass from MacKenzie Weegar and moved into a better shooting position before ripping a slap shot past a screened Khudobin, who got a piece, but not enough to keep it out. Jonathan Huberdeau picked up the secondary assist on Ekblad’s sixth, which came on the Panthers 23rd shot on goal of the game.

Florida’s D struck again with 1:42 left in the period when Keith Yandle hammered a slapper home from the left point after a Stars clearing attempt gently bounced off the boards and wound up right in his wheelhouse. Aleksander Barkov was standing in front of Khudobin on Yandle’s first game-winning goal of the season.

Driedger would stop all 11 Dallas shots in the third to finish the night with 24 saves and Barkov iced the cake with an unassisted empty net goal with 28 ticks left on the clock to send the dimming Stars to a sixth straight defeat (0-3-3).

The Panthers played a really solid game last night to rebound from Saturday’s disappointing 2-1 setback in Detroit. Florida is now a perfect 5-0 (how’s that for resilience?) after a loss this season and have posted wins over each of the Central’s “Big 3” (coming into the season) in the last 11 days. Dallas hadn’t played in a while, and it showed big time, in Florida’s dominant second period. The Cats wisely avoided the penalty box for the most part, giving the rusty Stars just one power play opportunity, limiting their chance to steal a point or two. A little concerning is that the Cats have put 90 shots on the goalie in the last two games and only scored thrice. They need to do a better job of finishing, but if they keep applying that level of pressure the goals should come.

Giants and Dwarfs

  • Florida has an NHL-high nine comeback victories this season, one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Jonathan Huberdeau collected his team-leading 16th assist of the season in his 553rd game as a Panther, passing Scott Mellanby for sixth-most games played and fifth-most by a skater in franchise history.
  • Patric Hornqvist registered his first fighting major of the season against Stars defenseman John Klingberg and registered a game-high seven shots on goal.
  • Anton Khudobin’s 49 saves tied his NHL high, set December 27, 2018, in a 2-0 victory versus the Nashville Predators.
  • Chris Driedger is now 7-1-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .929 save percentage.
  • The Panthers 29 shots on goal in the second period eclipsed the previous franchise record of 28 set in the second period of a 3-2 win over Washington on October 20, 2005.
  • Florida’s 52 total shots are tied for fifth-most shots in a game in franchise history and the most since they registered 53 on January 15, 2019 at Montreal. It is the 13th time in franchise history the Panthers have recorded 50 or more shots in a game.
  • For more on the first of three between the Cats and Stars, visit Defending Big D.

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