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Panthers get off the mat and rally for 5-4 overtime win over Blue Jackets

Frank The Tank caps furious Cats comeback

NHL: MAR 11 Panthers at Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Frank Vatrano converted the rebound of Jonathan Huberdeau’s shot 2:48 into overtime to give the Florida Panthers a stunning 5-4 comeback win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Florida rallied after trailing by at least three goals in the third period for the second time in the past two seasons and for the third time in franchise history.

After an evenly-played, scoreless first period, Columbus dominated much of the second, outshooting the Cats 15-4 and jumping out to a two-goal lead thanks to an Oliver Bjorkstand brace. Bjorkstrand beat Sergei Bobrovsky up high twice to go from 8 to 10 goals on the season in a 4:14 span.

Patric Hornqvist deflected Gustav Forsling’s shot by Elvis Merzlikins with 3:10 left in the frame to stem the tide and give the Panthers a fighting chance going into the third. The secondary assist on Hornqvist’s team-leading 11th went to Carter Verhaeghe.

That chance seemed to get extinguished in short shrift when Patrik Laine ripped a power-play one-timer past Bobrovsky at 3:23 and Maxi Domi’s pass attempt on a 2-on-1 break went off a diving MacKenzie Weegar’s stick and slid between his keeper’s legs 80 seconds later.

Ryan Lomberg batted the rebound of Noel Acciari’s shot out of the air at the 6:34 mark to notch his first NHL goal with a flourish and ignite another Cats comeback after Radko Gudas sent the two forwards the other way with speed.

Weegar would carry the puck in deep and find Owen Tippett, who scored the game-winner at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday, in the right circle and he whipped a wrister past Merzlikins to pull the Cats within a goal with 7:39 left in the game. Plenty of time...

Florida would forge a 4-4 tie at 14:26 to finish off a strong possession in the Columbus zone. After handing off to Huberdeau in the left circle, Aleksander Barkov rounded the net to switch sides, and smacked in a one-timer after Huberdeau dropped the puck to Keith Yandle, who quickly got it over to Barkov.

The Panthers completely dominated the extra session, getting a few high-quality looks at Merzlikins before Aaron Ekblad got a pass through to Huberdeau, who beat his man to race off 2-on -1 with Vatrano. Merzlikins denied Huberdeau’s five-hole bid, but the rebound went in the path of The Tank and he drove it home for the win.

Wow! Florida found a way to turn what was looking like an ugly defeat to end the road trip into a glorious comeback win that might have finished off the Blue Jackets at their halfway point on a night when Bobrovsky, who finished with 28 saves and earned his 10th win, wasn’t at his best. The Panthers have won four games after trailing by multiple goals, at any point, which trails only Winnipeg (5) for the most among all NHL teams this season. The Cats return home to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday after taking 8 of 10 points on the road and boosting their to record to an impressive 17-5-4.

Cuffs & Buttons

  • Playing in his 300th NHL game, Frank Vatrano notched his second overtime game-winning goal of the season, and the third OT-winner of his career. Vatrano is the seventh player in Panthers history to score multiple overtime goals in the same season (Aleksander Barkov, Pavel Bure, Valeri Bure, Mike Hoffman, Nathan Horton, Olli Jokinen).
  • Florida’s 10th win in their 13th road game of the season marked the fewest games the club has needed to reach 10 road wins (previously: 10-5-0, 1995-96). The Cats’ .808 road win percentage leads the NHL.
  • Aaron Ekblad notched his 151st NHL assist on Vatrano’s game-winner, surpassing Jay Bouwmeester for third-most assists by a Panthers defenseman in franchise history.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau extended his assist/point streak to five games (2G/6A). He leads the team with 10 multi-point games and 32 points.
  • Olive Bjorkstrand earned First Star honors for his three-point performance. In addition to scoring twice, he assisted on Maxi Domi’s goal. Other Blue Jackets with assists not mentioned above were Domi, Cam Atkinson, Patrik Laine, Riley Nash, Jack Roslovic and Zach Werenski, Elvis Merzlikins stopped 27 of 32 shots.
  • MacKenzie Weegar extended his point streak to three games (1G/3A), and registered a team-high four blocked shots.
  • Mason Marchment picked up the secondary assist on Owen Tippett’s goal. After getting a second look, he has produced two goals and six points in his past eight games.
  • For more on Florida’s latest win in Ohio, fire The Cannon.

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