The Florida Panthers kicked off the NHL’s unofficial second half of the season with a wild 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at BB&T Center.
Jonathan Marchessault scored the go-ahead goal with 6:03 left in regulation to snap a 4-4 tie and Jason Demers added an empty-netter with 35 seconds left to offset an even later Derick Brassard tally.
A wide-open first period saw the two teams combine for five goals to set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Michael Matheson opened the scoring 2:24 into the action, with the assists going to Alex Petrovic and Nick Bjugstad. After passing the puck off the boards to himself, Matheson drove to the net and Mike Condon stopped his shot, but the puck found it’s way over the goal line after deflecting off the skate of Dennis Wideman.
The Senators countered at the 4:59 mark when a streaking Ryan Dzingel beat Roberto Luongo top shelf after taking a pretty centering pass from Kyle Turris.
The Panthers responded with a nifty passing play of the own 23 seconds later. Mark Pysyk tipped in Derek MacKenzie’s perfect goalmouth feed after the veteran pivot took a pass from Michael Sgarbossa.
Dzingel cashed in for his second of the night when Matheson lost track of him near the post, leading to a very easy Ottawa goal. Assists on the play went to Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan.
After taking a pass from Erik Karlsson, a wide-open Wideman gave the Senators the lead when he blasted the puck by Luongo with 31 seconds left in the period. Mark Stone was credited with the second helper, which his 100th career assist.
Karlsson would notch a goal of his own 2:19 into second period. The slick defenseman one-timed the rebound of Tom Pyatt’s shot, which struck teammate Zack Smith who was screening in front, and came back to the Swede at the point.
Colton Sceviour started the Cats comeback when backhanded the carom of Demers’ dump pass off the backboards past Condon 18 seconds later. Greg McKegg drew the second assist on Scevior’s sixth goal, which ended a 39-game drought.
The Panthers tied things up at the 9:53 mark when Sgarbossa won a faceoff back to Matheson and the rookie pounded the puck by Condon for the first multi-goal game of his burgeoning career.
Marchessault struck the key blow when he stole Condon’s mishandle behind the net and tapped the puck into the yawning net for his fifteenth goal.
The win was the Panthers second in a row, and coupled with a Philadelphia’s loss to Carolina, back them just two points out of the second wild card. Florida will be looking for two more points when the Anaheim Ducks come calling on Friday.
Law & Order
- Not the best of starts for Roberto Luongo, but the veteran keeper came up big in the final frame, where he made 16 of his 36 saves to earn career win number 450. Luongo is one of five goalies to reach that plateau.
- Jonathan Marchessault’s go-ahead goal extended his points streak to five games. Marchessault scored the winner in Florida’s last game before the All-Star brak versus Tampa Bay.
- All eleven goals came with the teams at even strength. Florida went 0-for-3 on the power play while Ottawa went 0-for-4.
- Nick Bjugstad’s first period assist ended a run of eight games without a point dating back to December 20.
- Erik Karlsson led all skaters with eight shots on goal and logged a game-high 27:29 of ice time.
- With two helpers, Michael Sgarbossa posted the first multi-point game of his NHL career.
- A rare night with no points for Vincent Trocheck, but the red-hot center won 18 of 27 draws, had two shots on goal, a block, two hits and finished with a +1 rating.
- Silver Seven has the other side of last night’s high-scoring affair. The two teams meet again and I do know where and I do know when, February 26, back in sunny Sunrise./