Aaron Ekblad scored two power-play goals and added two assists for a career-high four point performance, and the Florida Panthers ended its first losing streak of the season with a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
Ekblad made or matched a bit of franchise history last night with the second multi-goal game of his career. His four points equaled the franchise record for points in a regular-season game by a defenseman. It was the first time he has scored two power-play goals in the same game, and the fifth time that a Panthers defenseman has produced two power-play goals in one game. (Robert Svehla, Brian Campbell, Sandis Ozolinsh and Bret Hedican were the others). Ekblad joined Hedican as the only two Panthers defensemen to score two power-play markers in a road game. The power-play tallies were the 27th and 28th of his career, surpassing Robert Svehla (26) for most ever by a Florida blueliner.
Carter Verhaeghe ended the Panthers inexplicable six-game first period scoring drought 6:29 into the tilt and Mason Marchment came up with his first NHL goal 2:32 later to stake the visiting Cats to 2-0 lead after twenty minutes.
The teams traded goals during the second period with Jonathan Huberdeau’s ninth answered by Mattias Ekholm, while Ekblad’s first of the night was replied to by Filip Forsberg.
Ekblad notched his second PPG 9:07 into the third, from Aleksander Barkov - his third assist of the night - and Keith Yandle, to put the Cats up by three, and it turned out to be huge, as the Predators would get goals from Colton Sisson at 12:40 and Ryan Johansen with 1:13 remaining and Pekka Rinne on the bench to make things uncomfortable. That’s the second straight game the Cats have surrendered a goal with the opposing keeper off for an extra attacker. Might want to work on that...
Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 31 saves to pick up his seventh win, but by surrendering two scores in the final 7:20, he will probably find himself backing up Chris Driedger in Saturday afternoon’s rematch. Joel Quenneville keeps trying to give Bob the starter’s ball, unfortunately, he keeps failing to run with it.
Things got a little dicey at the end, but all in all, a solid effort by the Panthers as they upped the road record to a franchise-best 7-1-1 after nine games and kept the little losing streak from growing into something more concerning. After being held to three goals or less in the last six games, it was good to see them capitalize on their opportunities (this was the ninth straight game with 35 or more shots on goal) and put five behind Rinne. With two more points in the bank, the Cats chances of making the playoffs are up to a robust 92.6%. It’s a beautiful morning!
Claws & Fangs
- First Star Aaron Ekblad’s eight goals is currently tops among NHL defensemen.
- Radko Gudas played in his 500th NHL game, registering three shots and leading the Cats with four hits.
- Panthers with assists not mentioned above were Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Huberdeau, who maintained the team scoring lead with 26 points, one better than Aleksander Barkov.
- In addition to bagging his tenth goal, Filip Forsberg collected two assists, Viktor Arvidsson had three helpers, and Pekka Rinne made 33 saves for the Predators, who have dropped two straight.
- Carter Verhaeghe’s game-opening goal was his eight of the campaign and ended a ten-game drought. Verhaeghe is up to 16 points after producing 13 (9G/4) in 52 games as rookie with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
- For more on this latest cat fight visit On The Forecheck.