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Panthers cruise to 4-1 victory over Red Wings

Verhaeghe brace lifts Cats to 50-point mark

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves to lift the injury-riddled Florida Panthers to a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Jonathan Huberdeau got the Cats off on the good foot, scoring 17 after opening puck drop. Mason Marchment poked the puck free from a scrum beneath the goal line after a faceoff and Huberdeau quickly slipped a shot underneath Calvin Pickard for his 14th goal.

Verhaeghe notched his first of the night after sending Anthony Duclair down the left wing with speed. Duclair pulled up and sent a sweet backhand saucer pass into the slot that Verhaeghe settled down and fired home while on one skate just inside the near post at the 11:27 mark.

Brett Connolly would tack on another 58 seconds later, beating a goaltender for the first time this season for his 100th NHL goal. Gustav Forsling held the puck in at the blue line and softly wristed it towards the net. Connolly, who looked very relieved afterwards, was able to deflect it down and in, ending Pickard’s night after he surrendered three goals on just eight shots.

The Red Wings only goal of the night came on a power play at 7:29 of the second period. Filip Hronek made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone and Dylan Larkin found Filip Zadina open in the right circle with a crisp pass and he finished off by whipping a wrister into the upper reaches of the cage.

Verhaeghe would complete the scoring with his 17th goal of the campaign 4:42 later. Owen Tippett stole the puck away from Larkin at the blue line and flipped the puck off the boards to go off for a change. Verhaeghe tracked it down and raced around the net, putting a shot off and over the body of a bewildered Thomas Greiss that Hronek accidently knocked over the goal line. He has collected five goals and an assist over his past three games.

Good job by the Cats to get off to quick start and avoid a loss to a lesser team in that “first one back from a road trip” trap game that clubs tend to have trouble with. Bobrovsky stopped Detroit’s final 16 shots of the game in leading his team to the 50-point plateau. The Panthers became the third team in the league to hit that mark (after Tampa Bay and Washington) and ran its winning streak to three games, passing Carolina for second place in the Discover Central in the process. Unfortunately, the Panthers injury list grew with Duclair suffering what looks to be a shoulder injury late in the second. He is expected to be out 7-10 days. The Cats depth is getting severely tested, but they’ve been extremely resilient this season. Expect that to continue as they continue to close in on clinching a playoff berth.

Gears & Spokes

  • Florida reached the 50-point mark in their 36th game of the season, the second-fewest games required to reach 50 points in franchise history (34 games played in 1995-96).
  • Carter Verhaeghe has scored 15 even-strength goals this season, tied for the league lead. Verhaeghe ranks second in goals (17) and points (30) among players with a new team in 2020-21. He registered a personal season-high six shots on goal against the Red Wings.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau’s goal was the fastest by a Panther start a game this season. With the goal, Huberdeau extended his point streak to three games. He led the team with 23:54 TOI.
  • Brett Connolly’s goal was his first since he bagged an empty-netter on February 11, and just his second of the season. With three forwards out of the lineup, the Cats need more from the five-time double-digit scorer.
  • Rookie Owen Tippett’s assist extended his point streak to three games.
  • With Aaron Ekblad out, Gustav Forsling stepped up and led Florida’s defensemen with 21:27 of ice time. In addition to his assist, he had two shots on goal and one hit. Radko Gudas registered four hits and blocked a team-high three blocked shots.
  • Thomas Greiss stopped 24 of 25 shots in relief of Calvin Pickard. Expect to see him again on Thursday.
  • For more on the Panthers season series-clinching win, visit Winging It In Motown.

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