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Recap: Panthers overcome deficit to top Red Wings 5-4 and regain third place

The Florida Panthers returned to action and posted an important, but sloppy, 5-4 comeback win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings in their first game back after the holiday break.

Mike Hoffman scored his thirteenth goal of the season and added two assists and the Cats also got goals from Evgenii Dadonov, Brett Connolly, Dominic Toninato and Anton Stralman.

Dadonov one-timed home a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau 2:46 into the opening period to give the Cats an early lead, but they would end up falling behind by a 3-1 count. Hoffman drew the secondary assist on the goal.

Darren Helm knocked the puck away from Hoffman at the Detroit blue line, took a pass from Filip Zedina and beat Chris Driedger on the subsequent breakaway at the 9:29 mark to tie the score.

The Red Wings forged ahead 38 seconds later when Andreas Athanasiou spotted Dylan Larkin open in front and he pulled the pass out of his skates and popped it by Driedger.

Patrick Nemeth’s shorthanded block of a Hoffman shot sent Frans Nielsen the other way and he froze Keith Yandle before solving Driedger glove-side from the upper left circle 46 seconds into the middle frame for his first of the season. Yikes!

Fortunately for the Panthers, Connolly scored off a quick Aleksander Barkov feed after Jimmy Howard denied Vincent Trocheck’s backhander before the power play expired to cancel out Nielsen’s shorty and turn the momentum.

After being involved in two of Detroit’s goals and one of his own team’s, Hoffman evened things up when he finished off a juicy rebound after Howard stopped Brian Boyle’s between the legs attempt after Frank Vatrano found him wide-open in front.

The ensuing face-off at center would see the Panthers dump the puck right back into the Red Wings zone and thanks to an aggressive forecheck, Valtteri Filppula mishandle a pass from Nemeth in front of his own goal. Toninato was there to grab the gift and he fired it by Howard’s glove, giving the Cats the lead just nine seconds after Hoffman tied it.

The score would remain the same until 13:24 of the third when Hoffman pulled up after taking a pass from Barkov on a 3-on-2 rush and hit an open Stralman in the right circle and he netted a well-placed shot into the far side of the net.

Detroit would pull Howard early and the strategy paid off when Luke Glendening knocked in a rebound after Filip Hronek’s one-timer went off of Driedger’s shoulder, off the post and came down right in front for an easy put-away with 4:11 left in regulation.

Driedger, who finished with 35 stops, and the Cats would shut things down the rest of the way and Florida banked a big two points, which pushed them past the Montreal Canadiens and back into third place in the Atlantic Division.

The Panthers will meet the Habs, who were beaten last night in Tampa, tonight at 7 p.m.

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Gears & Spokes

  • Chris Driedger was at his best in the third period where he stopped 15 of 16 Detroit shots. The 25-year-old’s GAA took a ding, but he is now 3-1 since his recall from Springfield, giving his club a dependable number two option.
  • Riley Stillman played 21:17 and registered two shots, two blocks and three hits while filling in with Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar both out of the lineup. Stillman had a team-high four giveaways, so he’ll need to clean that up moving forward.
  • In addition to his late goal, Detroit center Luke Glendening won 12 of 16 face-offs.
  • With the first period assist, Jonathan Hubderdeau extended his point streak to five games. He has collected three goals and 12 points during that span.
  • Jimmy Howard turned aside 25 of 30 shots and saw his record tumble to 2-13-1 on the season. Howard has not won a game since October 29th.
  • For the other side of Florida’s eventful 19th win of the season, drive by Winging It In Motown./