Carter Verhaeghe scored a breakaway goal 1:42 into overtime to lift the Florida Panthers to a crucial 4-3 win over the game, but thankfully not so mighty Anaheim Ducks at FLA Live Arena.
The comeback victory gave the Panthers a tenuous hold on a playoff spot, with a host of trailing teams having anywhere from two to six games in hand.
Florida was almost done in by former players Dmitry Kulikov and Frank Vatrano.
Kulikov set up Mason McTavish’s game-opening goal 11:46 into the first period, after Sergei Bobrovksy stopped the rookie from in-close, but lost sight of the rebound. The secondary assist went to Max Jones.
Vatrano gave the Ducks a two-goal lead 3:34 later when he punched in the rebound after Kevin Shattenkirk took a pass from John Klingberg and missed and the puck caromed right to him off the end boards. Vatrano’s goal came with Gustav Forsling off for cross-checking.
The second period would see the Brothers Staal come to the rescue.
Eric got a piece of Radko Gudas’ shot from the right boards and the puck struck goaltender John Gibson and then went in off the skate of defenseman Simon Benoit at the 2:12 mark.
Eric Staal has the Cats on the board!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) February 20, 2023
Bally Sports+ is a new option to watch Panthers games. Learn more here ➡️ https://t.co/8va8dYUOxV@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/1puTtjUNvT
Marc evened the score with 3:37 remaining in the frame when he tapped in a perfect return pass from Matthew Tkachuk to cap off a beautiful rush that saw all six Panthers on the ice touch the puck. Eetu Luostarinen centered to Staal to open up the 2-on-1 down low. That’s one of prettier goals the team has scored this season.
The other Staal ties this one up— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) February 20, 2023
Bally Sports+ is a new option to watch Panthers games. Learn more here ➡️ https://t.co/8va8dYUOxV@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/DpEHHob4q4
Anaheim regained the lead at 12:51 into the third after Kulikov held the puck in the offensive zone and worked a give-and-go with Klingberg before solving Bobrovsky’s glove with a wrister from between the circles.
Florida’s third line had a whale of a game and they were the trio that tied it up with 5:41 left in regulation. After Aaron Ekblad was stripped down low by McTavish he regained possession and passed back to Nick Cousins at the left point. Cousins crossed to Gustav Forsling, who let go of a slap shot that was deflected in by Ryan Lomberg.
"Hang on to your hair net, Helen"— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) February 20, 2023
Lomborghini ties this one at 3!@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/tsk4mWaCGS
The Panthers managed to escape the trap game with two points when Tkachuk forced a Vatrano turnover at Florida blue line and muscled Klingberg away from the puck, allowing Luostarinen to send Verhaeghe the other way. Verhaeghe lifted a forehand shot over Gibson’s blocker to hit the 30-mark for the first time in his career.
LET'S GO HOME BABYYYY— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) February 20, 2023
Carter Verhaeghe and the Panthers come from behind and win it in overtime!!@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/sPwmFRYAmk
The Cats will get three days off before they face the Buffalo Sabres in a key match-up on Friday. After that, they will play in Tampa on Tuesday before returning for a seven-game homestand. Florida must play much better than they did yesterday during this advantageous run that sees them play 9 of 10 on home ice. They managed to pull out a win against the worst team in the league by the skin off their teeth. Props for coming back to get the two points, but more urgency and killer instinct, please. We saw yet another 0-fer on the power play and the unproductive first line could use a shake up.
Tar & Feathers
- Carter Verhaeghe bagged his second game-winner and became the first Panther to hit 30 goals this season. Verhaeghe registered five shots on goal and went plus-two to earn First Start honors.
- Eric and Marc Staal became the sixth pair of brothers to score a goal in the same game for the same team in the past ten years. Eric had a second goal wiped off the board due to former Duck making contact with John Gibson.
- Gibson kept the Ducks close with a fine 51-save effort. Gibson became the third goaltender in NHL history to have multiple games with at least 50 saves in the same month, joining Al Rollins (two in October 1955) and Gump Worsley (three in January 1963).
- Matthew Tkachuk and Brandon Montour each finished with a game-high six shots on goal.
- John Klingberg has collected one goal and five points in his last five games. That should help the veteran defenseman attract the interest of playoff-bound teams in the lead up to the trade deadline.
- Sergei Bobrovksy bounced back from getting the early hook in Nashville by making 29 saves to post his 17th win.