Just three days after erasing a four-goal deficit against the New Jersey Devils, the Florida Panthers did it again by storming back to stun the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-6 in overtime at FLA Live Arena in a completely wild game filled with goals and milestones.
Jonathan Huberdeau was the hero, pouring in two goals and three assists to go from 97 to 102 points, becoming the first Panther in franchise history to hit (and breech) the century mark in points.
Huberdeau’s power-play goal tied the game at five apiece 2:45 into the third for point number 100 and then he took a sweet pass from Aleksander Barkov and fired the puck through Jack Campbells pads to win it 2:47 in the extra session.
The NHL’s leading assist man drew helpers on Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal that opened the scoring at the 3:46 mark of the first; set up Claude Giroux’s first goal as a Panther late in the second period; and drew the lone assist on Barkov’s 34th of the season 8:01 into the third.
Barkov’s goal gave Florida a 6-5 lead that was wiped out when Joh Tavares potted Toronto’s third power-play goal of the night with 3:54 left in regulation. Florida’s captain finished the game with a goal and three assists.
The Maple Leafs reeled off five straight goals after Reinhart gave the Cats the early 1-0 lead.
William Nylander’s one-timer with Toronto up a man at 15:21 sent the clubs to the dressing tied at the end of the first frame.
Mitch Marner made NHL history by scoring a beautiful shorthanded goal and then notching a power-play goal 37 seconds later to best Mario Lemieux’s old mark from March 12, 1989 by ten seconds.
Colin Blackwell made it a three-goal Buds lead at 2:04 of the second. He tipped in Morgan Rielly’s centering feed to cap off a 3-on-2 break and chase Sergei Bobrovsky, who headed to the bench with 10 saves on 14 shots. Bobrovsky has not looked good in four of his last five starts.
Jake Muzzin, playing in fist game since February 21, would beat Spencer Knight to make it 5-1 at 8:40. Auston Matthews picked up his third assist of the night on the goal. Marner, who would assist on Tavares’ goal later in the game, also drew a helper.
Reinhart would put in his own rebound for his second power-play goal, from Barkov and MacKenzie Weegar, to get the comeback started 3:12 later.
A huge shorthanded goal from Radko Gudas of all Panthers reduced the burden to two. Gudas took a pass from Anton Lundell and cranked a slap shot from just below the blue line that eluded Erik Kallgren just 59 seconds after Reinhart’s goal.
After Sam Bennett knocked the puck free from scrum along the left boards Giroux worked a give and go with Huberdeau to pull the Cats within one. Jack Campbell, in for Kallgren after the rookie took a shot from Robert Hagg in the mask, surrendered the goal.
Huberdeau evened things up at 5-5 when he poked in the puck after Campbell denied Reinhart’s redirection of Giroux’s hard cross.
Barkov gave the Cats their second lead of the game at with 11:59 left in the third, converting after Huberdeau threw a backhand pass in front that bounced off of Campbell and onto his stick.
The exciting ‘80s style tilt came to end when Barkov had to stretch out to reel in a return pass from Weegar and then slid the puck under Rielly’s stick with Huberdeau cashing in the 2-on-1 to give the Panthers the bonus point.
Wow! What a game! Led by their star players, the Panthers got off the mat to roar back and shock the Maple Leafs, who looked well on their way to a sixth straight win. More good news came in the form of losses by the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins. The Cats now have six points on the Hurricanes for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and opened up an eight-point lead on Toronto in the Atlantic Division race with just 12 games to go in the regular season. Tampa Bay is now 11 points back with a game in hand while the Bruins too are 11 points off the pace, having played 70 games. The Panthers need a Bobrovsky bounce back and to work on their penalty kill and defensive play, but despite the warts, remain extremely hard team to beat.
Rakes & Bags
- The Panthers are now up to a franchise record 104 points, surpassing the old mark of 103 set during the 2015-16 season. Florida is the only team in NHL history to record multiple four goal comebacks in multiple seasons. Only the 1983-84 Oilers have done so in one season. The Cats also recorded multiple four-goal comebacks in 2019-20 (Nov. 12 at Boston, Nov. 21 vs. Anaheim). The comeback victory is Florida’s fifth win this season when trailing at any point by at least three goals, the most by any team in one season in NHL history.
- Florida out-shot Toronto 49-35 as the teams combined for a whopping 84 shots. Starter Erik Kallgren stopped 20 of 23 before departing. Loser Jack Campbell was beaten four times on 26 shots.
- Hats off to Spencer Knight for coming into a very tough situation and stopping 19 of 21 shots to get the victory. With Bobrovsky getting the hook in his last two starts, Knight collected three wins in a four-day span.
- The teams combined for a total of six power-play goals with the Cats going 3 for 6 with the man-advantage while the Buds went 3 for 7.
- Auston Matthews has racked up 17 goals and 10 assists during a 14-game point streak. He may have set up three goals, but what he wasn’t able to do was set a new franchise record for goals against the Cats despite registering eight shots.
- In addition to his shorty, Radko Gudas dished out eight hits. Jonathan Huberdeau and Claude Giroux led the Panthers with seven shots apiece.
- Mitch Marner extended his multipoint streak to seven games, tying a Toronto record shared by Matthews, Doug Gilmour, Vincent Damphousse , Rick Vaive and Corb Denneny.
- For more on the goal-fest in Sunrise, check out Pension Plan Puppets.