What the Duck? Vrbata’s hat trick powers Panthers to 8-3 rout over Anaheim

Cats chase Gibson with six goals on 17 shots

After suffering its worst defeat of the young season to the struggling Canadiens in Montreal, the Florida Panthers exploded for an 8-3 win over the depleted Anaheim Ducks to open a five-game homestand at the BB&T Center in fine-feathered fashion.

Radim Vrbata lit the fuse just 64 seconds into the action by knocking a rebound home after Vincent Trocheck threw the puck in front and Connor Brickley also took a whack or two at it. The goal was Vrbata’s first in a Panther sweater after signing as a free agent this summer.

Speaking of firsts, rookie Owen Tippett notched his first NHL goal 3:19 later, converting a pretty pass from Jamie McGinn to cap off a well-executed 2-on-1 break after Mike Matheson forced a turnover at his own blue line. Tippett’s goal came in his fourth career game.

The Ducks countered 2:01 after Tippett’s marker when former Panther Logan Shaw found a cutting Kalle Kossila in the slot and the 24-year-old rookie beat James Reimer for his first in the bigs. Chris Wagner picked up the secondary assist on the play.

Vrbata restored Florida’s two-goal lead with a power-play tally at the 17:24 mark. Nick Bjugstad collected the puck, jarred free by McGinn, behind the net and fed a wide-open Vrbata for the easy put away.

Trocheck put Florida up by three 4:03 into the middle period when he quickly swatted a loose puck by John Gibson after Alex Petrovic’s shot from the point bounced off Brickley after a face-off win.

Evgenii Dadonov made it 5-1 when he one-timed Aleksander Barkov’s sensational backhand dish past Gibson for his third of the season at 8:27. Barkov bulled his way into the Anaheim zone to set up the play that saw Jonathan Huberdeau pick up the secondary assist.

Barkov got a goal of his own 7:10 later, with Anaheim on power play, after Derek MacKenzie stole the puck from Francois Beauchemin and sent a backhand pass across to Florida’s number one pivot. The shorthanded assist was the captain’s first point of the season.

Andrew Cogliano ended the Panthers run of four-straight goals when he batted the rebound of Jakob Silfverbrg’s shot that hit the post out of the air and into the back of the net. Veteran Antoine Vermette got the second assist on the goal that came 2:18 into the final frame.

Vrbata completed his hat trick at the 8:39 when he collected a rebound and calmly beat another former Panther, Reto Berra, who entered the game at the start of the third period. Trocheck and Keith Yandle registered the assists on Vrbata’s third of the night and season.

Shaw pulled one back for the Ducks when he hammered a long rebound of Chris Wagner’s shot by Reimer from the left circle. Derek Grant drew the second assist on Shaw’s first of the campaign.

Florida’s first line clicked again with 2:21 remaining with Dadonov getting his second of the night from Barkov and Huberdeau. Huberdeau deflected a clearing attempt right to Barkov and he found a waiting Dadonov with a sweet no-look backhand pass to complete the scoring.

There is a definite Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nature to the Panthers in the early days under new coach Bob Boughner. Two days after a poor performance against the Habs, the Cats bounced back to stomp the Ducks. They also had picked up a solid road win in Washington after an embarrassing comedy of errors cost them in Philadelphia. Winning at home (now 3-1) and avoiding losing streaks will be key to having a successful season, and so far, the early returns in those two areas have been good.  Up next is the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)

Tar & Feathers

  • Radim Vrbata’s hat trick was the seventh of his long NHL career. It was his first three-goal turn since December 7, 2015, when he was a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Florida scored its eight goals on just 22 shots and 13 of 18 skaters had at least a point in the one-sided tilt, led by Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, who each had a goal and two helpers.
  • John Gibson left the game after forty minutes with 11 saves on 17 shots. Reto Berra mopped up in the third and stopped 3 of the 5 shots he faced.
  • The Panthers penalty kill was successful on all three Anaheim power-play attempts and saw its kill rate increase to 72.2%. Florida moved past Edmonton into 30th place in that department. So, progress...
  • Evgenii Dadonov delivered his second multi-goal game in the NHL, and first since March 19, 2011 when he was with the Panthers before leaving North America for the KHL.
  • James Reimer finished with 31 saves and raised his record to 3-3. Reimer has to carry the ball with Roberto Luongo out. So far, so good.
  • A few negatives. After being noticeable in the first period, Nick Bjugstad and Owen Tippett did little to nothing the rest of the game. Bjugstad failed to register a shot on goal and Tippett only had the one. Denis Malgin also failed to put a shot on net and finished with a -2 rating. Players need to realize the game is sixty minutes, not twenty or forty.
  • Check out Anaheim Calling for more on the latest match-up between the two 1993 expansion cousins. /