Huberdeau nets winner for Panthers in OT thriller against San Jose

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
The Panthers are firing on all cylinders. It wasn’t pretty a game for either team, but the Panthers still managed to come out on top 6-4 in overtime on Wednesday night against a well-oiled machine in the San Jose Sharks. 

The second game of the Panthers’ 5-game road-trip wasn’t much different from the first which saw them light the lamp a season-high 7 times in a 7-4 win over the Predators on Saturday.

A wild, back-and-forth opening period saw 4 total goals, 3 of which were scored by the Panthers in under 3 minutes. Jussi Jokinen gave the Panthers the early lead with a snap-shot off a cross-ice feed from Reilly Smith before Nick Bjugstad scored just his 2nd goal of the season on a lunging breakaway shot to make it 2-1.

Aleksander Barkov’s 12th goal of the season – and third in as many games – made it 3-1, a lead which the Panthers went into the first intermission with.

The tides would turn in the 2nd period, however, as the Sharks took it to the Panthers by scoring twice and controlling the play to even the game at 3 goals apiece.

The momentum shifted again to start the 3rd as it was Bjugstad who scored his 2nd goal of the game to give the Panthers the lead after a flurry of chances by the line of Barkov, Huberdeau, and Jagr.

Barkov followed suit by scoring his 2nd game just over 10 minutes later to earn Jaromir Jagr his 1,900th NHL point, and it would certainly be needed as the Sharks got two goals from Joe Pavelski, including the game-tying marker with 38 seconds left on the clock.

James Reimer entered the game after Roberto Luongo appeared to suffer a lower-body injury on the late goal and needed help off the ice, however head coach Tom Rowe that they 37-year old netminder is fine and merely “cramped up.”

In overtime, Reimer was forced to make a huge save early on a one-timer by Joe Thornton, but it would pave the way for Barkov to set up Jonathan Huberdeau with a no-look pass to the front of the net for the game-winner.

Luongo finished with 29 saves on 34 shots while Reimer went a perfect 2 for 2.

The game in a word?

Adversity. The Panthers faced a ton of it on Wednesday night, just as they have all season long.

A tough building. A tough team. Only their fourth game in 15 days which is tied for the league-low. Three leads surrendered. Starting goalie lost in the final seconds on the game-tying goal.

Yet they still won, and it probably doesn’t happen before February 3rd which was when the Panthers got back Huberdeau and Barkov, who have tallied 7 and 6 points in their 4 games, respectively, since returning from injury.

Their returns have had a trickle-down effect as everyone else in the lineup has slotted into their intended spots. Bjugstad has now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and 5 points in his last 5 games after only having a goal and an assist in his first 22 games. Michael Sgarbossa has 6 points in his last 9 games, Jussi Jokinen has goals in 3 straight, and Reilly Smith is beginning to get going.

Things are starting to come together for the Panthers, who have now won 5 of their last 6 games and are 3 points out of a wild-card spot with a game in hand.

A win like Wednesday night is a good sign for a team that’s gone through a lot this season.

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