What didn’t click for the Panthers on Thursday night certainly clicked on Saturday afternoon. Two days after a disappointing, 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Panthers won 7-4 over the Predators to kick off a 5-game road trip.
Jaromir Jagr scored first just 4:14 into the opening period with a deflection on a Keith Yandle point shot, and the Predators tied it up a little over 5 minutes later when Jason Demers attempted to knock a Roman Josi shot out of mid-air and instead deflected it past Roberto Luongo.
Luongo, who had lost 4 of his previous 5 starts, made 26 saves on 30 shots to earn his 10th win in 15 career outings at Bridgestone Arena.
In what was a wild 2nd period, the Panthers got goals from 4 different players – including Jussi Jokinen, Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, and Aleksander Barkov – to keep them on top despite 2 from Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson, who went on to score his hat-trick goal late in the 3rd period.
The Panthers scored 2 straight power play goals in the 2nd before going 0-for-4 through the rest of the game. They hadn’t scored in their previous 12 attempts entering the game, and went 1-for-4 on the penalty kill with the Predators’ lone marker with the man advantage being of the flukey variety off Demers.
Nashville’s starter Pekka Rinne was pulled from the game in favor of youngster Juuse Saros after the 4th Florida goal, making it just the 3rd time the 6’7″ Finnish netminder has had his night ended early this season.
Bjugstad’s goal, which was his 2nd of the season and first since December 20th, came 28 seconds after Arvidsson scored, regaining the lead for the Panthers. Trocheck and Barkov’s goals came in a span of 2 minutes and 29 seconds later to make it 5-2 after the 2nd period.
Jonathan Huberdeau tallied 3 points on the night, including the Panthers’ 6th goal and 2 assists, to give him 5 points in 3 games since returning from an Achilles’ injury which forced him to miss the first 51 games of the season.
Trocheck also tallied 3 points, including his 19th and 20th goals of the season, an assist, and a fight, earning him the Gordie Howe hat-trick and propelling the Panthers to a season-high 7 goals scored in a game. It took him 67 games to reach the 20-goal mark last season, and this year, he’s done it in 13 fewer games.
There will be 3 days off before the Panthers head to San Jose to take on the Sharks for the second time this season after losing 4-2 in the first meeting back on November 10th. The Sharks lost to the Flyers 2-1 in overtime on Saturday and have lost 5 of their last 7 games, including 4 straight.
The Panthers have won 4 of their last 5 games and have scored at least 3 goals in 3 of the last 4.