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Panthers lose Ekblad in 4-1 win over Stars

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Huberdeau scores twice, assists on another

NHL: Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Huberdeau scored two first period goals and set up Owen Tippett’s empty-netter as the Florida Panthers posted a second straight win over the Dallas Stars, this time by a 4-1 count, on Sunday at American Airlines Center.

Taking away from the joy of victory was the loss of defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who fell awkwardly after getting tangled up with Esa Lindell midway through the second period and suffered what looks to be a potentially gruesome left knee injury. Ekblad left the ice on a stretcher and is expected to be out for an “extensive” period of time. I reckon we won’t see Ekblad, who was having the best season of his career for the rest of the season.

Ekblad was dubiously called for roughing 4:19 into the game and the Stars quickly cashed in on the ensuing man advantage when Jason Robertson deflected Roope Hintz’ pass by Chris Driedger. Radko Gudas also got a stick on the puck right before Roberston did, leaving his goaltender no chance at a save.

Huberdeau tied the game 31 seconds later by stealing the puck from Jamie Benn along the side boards and powering his way into the lower right circle before zinging a perfectly placed wrister into the upper corner of the net.

After being harried by Andrew Cogliano on a breakaway attempt, Anthony Duclair was awarded a penalty shot. The Duke moved in on Jake Oettinger and beat him with a shot that went off the post and in at the 6:26 mark.

The Cats went up by two when Huberdeau notched his second of the night with 6:23 remaining in the period. After playing catch up high with Keith Yandle, Huberdeau ripped a shot from the top of the right circle through the legs of Lindell and between Oettinger’s body and blocker. Ekblad picked up the secondary assist on the power-play marker and Alex Wennberg did a good job screening in front.

That was it scoring-wise until Tippett bagged his fifth into an empty net with the lone assist going to Huberdeau with 1:05 left in the contest.

Props to the Panthers for shrugging off the early Dallas goal and then locking things down for the rest of the game after suffering the huge blow of losing Ekblad 9:58 into the second period. Chris Driedger stopped 33 of 34 shots and improved his record to 9-4-2 as the Cats beat the Stars for the fourth time in five tries, salvaging a road trip that got off to a worrisome (for some folks) 0-3 start. Florida is now tied with Carolina for the most road wins in the Central Division (12). With Ekblad out long term, general manager Bill Zito will have to find a way to bolster the defense corps of his playoff bound club to give it the best chance of succeeding. The Cats get today off before opening a four-game homestand against the Detroit Red Wings.

Giants & Dwarfs

  • Jonathan Huberdeau registered his team-leading third multi-goal game and 12th multi-point performance of the season. Huberdeau leads the club in assists (27) and points (40).
  • Anthony Duclair tallied his first NHL penalty shot goal. The goal was scored on his fourth career penalty shot attempt and his first since March 1, 2018. Duclair became the fourth Panthers player to score a game-winning goal on a penalty shot, joining David Booth (10/30/10), Huberdeau (2/21/13) and Evgenii Dadonov (2/12/18 and 12/18/18).
  • Owen Tippett has recorded points in each of his last two games and has posted two goals and three points over his last four games.
  • Keith Yandle notched an assist for his 15th power play point of his season.
  • Noel Acciari tied Florida’s season high for blocked shots with five.
  • Riley Stillman registered his third career fighting major against Dallas forward Denis Guraniov.
  • Jake Oettinger stopped 19 shots and John Klingberg had an assist for the Stars.
  • For the other side of this one, check out Defending Big D.

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