Noel Acciari scored his first three goals of the season to power the Florida Panthers to a 6-2 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Acciari came into the game with nary a point in his first 14 appearances of the season.
After spotting Nashville an early lead on Eeli Tolvanen’s power-play goal at 6:46, Aaron Ekblad scored his third goal in the last two games on a nice individual effort to tie the score with 13 seconds left in the opening period.
Jonathan Huberdeau put the Panthers ahead 1:15 into when he displayed some flashy handwork to solve Pekka Rinne and finish off a breakaway. The assists on the goal went to Patric Hornqvist and Radko Gudas. The primary helper was Hornqvist’s 500th NHL point.
Acciari claimed Frank Vatrano’s aerial pass in the neutral zone and got by Mattias Ekholm before zipping a wrist shot from close range over Rinne’s glove at the 11:17 mark.
His second goal came with 1:14 left in frame when Rinne gave up a big rebound on Keith Yandle’s shot from center ice and Acciari skated in and deposited the puck into the net on the backhand.
Viktor Arviddson and Frank Vatrano, off a pretty no-look drop pass from Aleksander Barkov, would trade third period tallies before Acciari finished off his hat trick with a power-play goal at 16:58, whacking a backhand by Rinne after Yandle threw the puck in front after Huberdeau passed back to the point.
With the four-goal victory, the Panthers left no doubt this time in Nashville, extending their win streak at Bridgestone Arena to four games, Florida is now 15-4-4 and a franchise-best 8-1-1 on the road. Their .850 road points percentage is tops the NHL. The Cats jumped today’s opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, for second place with both teams having played 23 games. A similar effort will be needed to get a win in Raleigh and maintain that position.
Claws & Fangs
- Noel Acciari’s hat trick was the third of his career. Acciari recorded back-to-back hat tricks against Ottawa (12/16/2019) and Dallas (12/20/2019) last season. His final goal was his first career power-play tally. He is the fourth Panther in franchise history to have recorded at least three hat tricks with the club, joining Pavel Bure (10), Ray Sheppard (5) and Olli Jokinen (4).
- Jonathan Huberdeau notched his team-leading 10th goal of the season, extending his goal/point streak to two games (2G/1A). Huberdeau’s tally was his 158th NHL goal, surpassing Scott Mellanby for third-most goals scored in franchise history.
- Florida is one of two NHL teams (Montreal is the other) with only one road regulation loss this season. The Panthers have won seven of their past eight road contests (7-1-0).
- In addition to his goal, Frank Vatrano added an assist on Acciari’s first marker. He has produced four goals and five points over his past five games. The Tank is rolling, folks.
- With the pretty assist on Vatrano’s goal, Aleksander Barkov extended his point streak to a season-high five games (1G/6A).
- Grigori Denisenko played in his first NHL game, logging one hit, one blocked shot and two shots on goal in 12:59 TOI. Denisenko’s tripping penalty led to Eeli Tolvanen fourth of the season.
- Filip Forsberg had the primary assist on both Nashville goals. Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen also added helpers.
- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 of 30 shots and is 3-0-1 in his past four starts. Pekka Rinne finished with 26 saves. Florida beat Rinne eleven times in the two-game set.
- For more on catfight number four, visit On The Forecheck.