Cue the Stryper (♫ To hell with the Devils! ♫)
The Florida Panthers overcame a four-goal third period deficit and Yegor Sharangovic’s hat trick to stun the New Jersey Devils 7-6 in overtime when Gustav Forsling scored his second goal of the afternoon.
The Panthers cat-napped through much of the first forty minutes.
Sharangovic and Jack Hughes scored unassisted, turnover-aided goals seventeen seconds apart early in the first period to stake the Devils to a two-goal lead just 3:42 into the game.
Ben Chiarot got his first as Panther at 9:02 to halve the deficit. Chiarot fired home through traffic after New Jersey’s Damon Severson denied Anton Lundell’s wraparound bid, but inadvertantly threw the puck out to the former Canadien.
The Devils scored in rapid succession again early in the second with goals from Sharangovic and Janne Kuokkanen coming within forty-five seconds of each other.
Rookie Dawson Mercer set up Sharangovic’s second and Andres Johansson and Ty Smith drew the helpers on Kuokkanen’s cutting backhand finish at the 2:45 mark. Failure to get the puck out of their end cost the Cats on both goals.
A Florida blueliner struck to again halve the deficit. This time it was Radko Gudas, who emerged from the penalty box and shortly after carried up ice on a 2-on-2 rush. Andrew Hammond fought off the initial shot and then pushed the rebound right back into Gudas and the puck ended up bouncing up and over the goalie’s head. Brandon Montour drew the lone assist on Gudas’ second of the season at 11:17.
It didn’t take long for the Devils to tack on two more markers. Sharangovic caught up to a backhand pass from Nico Hischier and easily scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 14:44 and then an umarked Johansson converted Kuokkanen’s centering feed at 16:08 after Adam Boqvist took the puck back from MacKenzie Weegar,
After having one of his best outings of the season in Thursday’s shutout win over Chicago, Sergei Bobrovsky was finished after two periods, surrendering a half dozen on 25 shots.
With Spencer Knight now tending the net, once again, it was up to a Panthers defensemen to cut the deficit in half. Montour took a pass from Anthony Duclair and blasted a slapper by Hammond from the point. Mason Marchment drew the second helper on the goal, which came at the 5:34 mark.
Forsling pulled the Cats within two 1:29 later when he dented the twine unassisted after a down-and-out Hammond denied Sam Reinhart a couple of times on the door step. A snake-bitten Severson again thought he had prevented a goal, only to clear it right onto the stick of a waiting Panther under heavy pressure.
The goal made franchise history as this was the first time four Florida defensmen had scored in a single game. Would this just end up being an interesting footnote in a disappointing loss or could the Cats make it matter?
Well, Aleksander Barkov made sure it mattered. The captain scored twice with Knight on the bench for an extra attacker to get his club to overtime.
Barkov solved Hammond short-side with a quick shot at 15:23 after taking a short pass from Bennett, who had just received a touch pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and then hammered a one-timer in from the right circle off a feed from Weegar with the secondary assist again going to Huberdeau with a 1:24 left on the Prudential Center clock.
Forsling took a backhand pass from Bennett and moved into the center of the high slot and snapped a wrister by a very weary looking Hammond 1:45 into overtime to end it.
After scoring four times in a 13:02 span to send the game to the extra session, the Cardiac Cats will shuffle off to Buffalo with 100 points for just the second time in the history of the franchise. The Panthers, who matched the club record (47) for most wins, are the first team in the Eastern Conference to hit the century mark and no matter what happens during the rest of Saturday’s action will be at least six points ahead in the Atlantic Division race. Five goals from the defense and a Barkov brace... unreal!
Fire & Brimstone
- Florida notched its second win when trailing by at least three goals in the third period (November 12, 2019 at the Boston Bruins was the first) and its fourth comeback win when trailing by three goals at any point in a game. It was just the 20th time in NHL history that a team won a regular-season game after trailing by four goals in the third period.
- With his two assists, Jonathan Huberdeau tied the Panthers single-season record for points (96) set by Aleksander Barkov in 2018-19. Expect Huberdeau to establish a new mark tomorrow in Buffalo.
- Have to feel a bit for veteran journeyman Andrew Hammond, who was spotted a 6-2 lead in his first game with the Devils, only to see it quickly evaporate. Hammond got the usual workout a goalie gets when facing Florida. He finished with 34 saves on 41 shots. 23 of those shots came in the final frame.
- Spencer Knight collected his 14th win of the campaign after stopping five shots in the third and one in overtime.
- MacKenzie Weegar’s helper on Barkov’s game-tying goal was his 30th assist, matching his career-high set last season.
- Despite combing for 13 goals, neither team scored on the power play. The Panthers went 0 for 3 while New Jersey went 0 for 2.
- Yegor Sharangovic scored his first career hat trick on a game-high six shots. Gustav Forsling, who scored twice in a game for the first time, also had six shots on goal.
- The Devils almost won the season series... almost. Read more about the Panthers furious comeback at All About The Jersey.