No visitor’s lead is safe at FLA Live Arena, The Florida Panthers erased three different two-goal deficits to sink the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in overtime when Sam Bennett scored 68 seconds into the extra session in the Cats final home game before the All-Star break.
After a Sergei Bobrovsky turnover, Tomas Hertl passed off down low to Rudolfs Balcers,and then drove to the net to take the nift backhand return and pushed the puck in 6:10 after the opening faceoff.
The Sharks added to their fast start with a power-play goal at 17:17 when Jonathan Dahlen sniped Bobrovsky, who was screened by big-bodied Jasper Weatherby, from the slot. The assists went to Noah Gregor and Nick Bonino.
Gustav Forsling got open in the left circle and spanked a pass from Sam Reinhart into the net at 19:06 to get the Cats first. Mason Marchment did some hard work along the boards to earn the secondary assist.
Matt Nieto made 3-1 just 91 seconds into the middle frame when he burst into the slot and one-timed a pass from Bonino past Bobrovsky. Marc-Edouard Vlasic drew the second assist on the goal.
Former Panthers netminder James Reimer stopped 36 of 37 shots during the first two periods, but the Cats realized they needed a bigger boat and would roast their old teammate over the next 21:08.
Aleksander Barkov ripped a shot in at 1:26 after working a dazzling sequence of give-and-gos with Jonathan Huberdeau and Carter Verhaeghe. The marker was Barkov’s 20th of the campaign while Verhaeghe notched his 20th assist.
A hooking penalty on Brandon Montour put San Jose on a power play and Dahlen took advantage again, this time scoring from the right circle from Brent Burns and Bonino, with Weatherby again providing the screen at 4:50.
Down by two for a third time and with a quick Verhaeghe counter wiped off the board via review due to Huberdeau being offsides, the Cats shrugged it off and went right back to work, clawing one back at 7:30 when Marchment poked in a loose puck after Reinhart took it away from Jaycob Megna behind the net, threw it in front and began whacking away at Reimer.
Huberdeau would forge a four all tie 2:08 later. Florida’s Hart Trophy candidate pushed the puck back to MacKenize Weegar after a Barkov faceoff win and cruised to the net. Weegar’s subsequent shot from the point was blocked, but Verhaeghe claimed the puck in the slot and found Huberdeau’s waiting blade at the edge of the crease for the easy finish.
The Panthers took the momentum from their big third period into overtime and scored on the only shot of the extra stanza. After Barkov handed off to Forsling he left the ice for Bennett, who weaved his way to the net to pot Huberdeau’s centering feed from behind the net to reel in the full two points.
Great job by the Panthers of sticking with it and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with another exciting rally on home ice. Florida leads the NHL with three third-period multigoal comeback wins. With yet another three-point performance, Jonathan Huberdeau leads the NHL in scoring with 61 points, one more than Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl. Chances are Draisaitl, and Connor McDavid, will pass with the Oilers having played five less games, but with the way Huberdeau is racking up points he should be in the Art Ross Trophy race for the remainder of the season. And if he wins it, a Hart Trophy could (and should, imo) come along with it. That’s it for home games for a while. The Cats will play in Columbus and at Madison Square Garden before getting a well-deserved 15-day break.
Hooks & Chum
- The Panthers are 23-3-0 at home to equal the 26-game home wins record held by the Sharks (23-1-2, 2008-09), Detroit Red Wings (23-2-1, 2011-12), and Boston Bruins BOS (23-2-1 tie, 1970-71).
- Longtime Shark Joe Thornton faced San Jose for the first time in 18 years, 84 days, the longest span in NHL history for a player against an opponent. Thornton played 11:41 and had two shots on goal.
- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 of 34 shots to post his 22nd win. ExCat James Reimer faced an even 50 shots and managed to helped earn his team a point in former Panthers head coach Bob Boughner’s return to Sunrise.
- In addition to setting up two goals, Samson Reinhart registered a game-high eight shots on goal.
- Sharks defenseman Nicolas Meloche was credited with a game-high 11 hits. Brent Burns logged heavy minutes (too heavy?), playing 33:48 and finished with an ugly -4 rating.
- For the other side of this exciting overtime affair, visit Fear The Fin.