Marchessault nets OT winner against former team to lift Panthers over Lightning

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

The Panthers entered the All-Star Break on a victorious note on Thursday night with a much-needed win over their cross-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning, ending a 4-game skid. 

Jonathan Marchessault, who the Panthers signed to an incredibly cap-friendly 2-year, $750,000 contract during the off-season, scored his 14th goal of the season and first career overtime winner against his former team to earn the victory.

“It’s always fun to score in OT,” said Marchessault. “It was a good power play run, I think. [Vincent Trocheck] just brought the puck in so easily; [Keith Yandle] and [Jussi Jokinen] had good poise with it. I just had to bury it.”

The Panthers were the beneficiary of a rare power play after regulation when Jason Demers was taken down in the neutral zone as he chased down a loose puck, and that opened up a ton of space for Marchessault to get a shot off from a tough goal-line angle.

The win snaps the Panthers’ streak of losing 5 consecutive games past regulation and gives them a record of 2-0-1 through 3 of the 4 games so far against the Lightning this season.

“We’re all happy for the players,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “They’ve been working hard and paid the price tonight in a big way. They had 29 hits, 30 hits, which was good. We talked about that before the game. [The Lightning] got one power-play goal, but I still think our penalty-killing was outstanding.”

Alex Petrovic and Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup after what seemed like forever, and while they didn’t have an impact on the scoresheet, their returns brought life to a team that hasn’t had much to be excited about over the last while.

Petrovic missed a total of 33 games after suffering a broken ankle against Montreal on November 15th while Bjugstad missed 9 games with a lower-body injury suffered on January 6th.

Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring for the Panthers with a short-handed goal in the 1st period on a cross-ice feed from Vincent Trocheck, but the Lightning answered back on the power play less than 2 minutes later with a goal by Nikita Kucherov. That would be it until the overtime period as they went 0-for-2 and 0-for-3 respectively with the man-advantage the rest of the way in regulation.

James Reimer got the surprise start in net after Roberto Luongo was said to have suffered a minor injury during Thursday’s morning skate.

“Everything’s under control back home,” said Reimer, who missed the Panthers’ last 2 games tending to his pregnant wife. “I’m just worried about playing the game. You never know when it’s going to come. You just want everything to be good and the baby to be healthy. That’s the main thing you worry about. I figured that things were pretty safe at home, although maybe I should go check my cell phone.”

Luongo expected to be ready to go for the Panthers after the All Star Game, but he wasn’t missed as Reimer made 31 saves on 32 shots and was perfect at even-strength while Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 37 shots.

The Panthers will face the Ottawa Senators for the third time this season on Tuesday at home after splitting the first 2 games of the 4-game season series. The Senators lost to the Flames on Thursday night 3-2 in overtime with newly-acquired Tommy Wingels and Chris Wideman tying things at 2 before Johnny Gaudrea won it for Calgary in the extra frame.

The two teams last met on December 3rd when the Senators shut out the Panthers 2-0.

Post-game notes: F Vincent Trocheck has 10 goals, 8 assists, and 18 points in his last 15 games. … With the win, G James Reimer now has 99 in his NHL career. … F Jussi Jokinen’s goal was only his 4th of the season and first since January 9th against the New Jersey Devils. The goal was also the Panthers’ 4th of the season while shorthanded. … F Jaromir Jagr will attend the NHL All Star Game on January 29th and will be recognized as one of the league’s all-time top 100 players. F Vincent Trocheck was voted to attend and will participate in the game and skills competition.

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