The Panthers have certainly gotten some bang for their buck.
Jonathan Marchessault scored twice – his 24th and 25th goals of the season – including the eventual game-winner as part of an exciting 2nd period to lift the Panthers over the visiting, 29th-place Arizona Coyotes.
He must’ve felt he had that ability in him, right?
“Nope,” said Marcheesault.
“Nobody knew I was able to make junior, to play pro, to play in the NHL. It’s been a roller coaster for me in my career. It’s been fun.”
The 26-year old forward, who signed with the Panthers as a free-agent on a 2-year, $750,000 deal, reached the 25-goal milestone for the first time in any league since scoring 40 in his final junior season back in 2011.
Aleksander Barkov fed him with a perfect cross-ice saucer pass over a laid-out Alex Goligoski, and he snapped the puck past Mike Smith on the glove side.
The next one came just 26 seconds later on a feed from Thomas Vanek before Marchessault proceeded to pick the top left corner to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.
Shawn Thornton opened the scoring with an odd goal which saw him put the puck over the goal line with the net – although still attached to the moorings – face-down on top of the the Arizona goaltender.
“I was thinking about just shooting it into the stands,” Thornton said. “I didn’t think it was going to count.”
The 39-year old’s second goal of the season tied the game at 1 a piece in what would end up being a 3-goal middle frame. He also recorded a season-high 14:05 of ice time, which is his highest total since logging 16:03 two seasons ago.
Early in the 1st, Tobias Rieder gave the Coyotes the lead after a mishandled puck at the Panthers’ blue line allowed him to break free and go in alone on James Reimer.
It was the only goal Reimer allowed on 23 shots in his first start since March 19th. Jakob Chychrun, a native of Boca Raton, Florida and a fan of the Panthers growing up, made his BB&T Center debut after being selected in the 2016 Draft by the Coyotes. Chychrun was named the 3rd star of the game, recording 4 hits and 0 points in 18:06 of ice time.
For the first time in the Panthers’ history, both teams recorded 0 penalty minutes, and it was the 10th time the Panthers did it on their own.
Entering the night, the Panthers had lost 11 of their last 14 games and, but most accounts, are considered to be out of playoff contention despite not being mathematically eliminated just yet.
Per Sports Club Stats, going 9-0-0 the rest of the way would only give them a 55.6 percent chance of making the post-season, and that’s not factoring in the performance of the teams around them.
So for now, the Panthers will have to settle with playing for pride.
“It’s very important,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “We talked about it after the first period; we talked about it the other day with everybody – medical staff, equipment staff, training staff included. The whole organization has got to stay positive and in it, and mentally stay in it.”
After Thursday night’s win, the Panthers remain 7 points back of the Bruins, who hold the second wild card spot in the East with 82 points, However, they’d actually need 8 points since Boston holds the edge in the regulation plus overtime wins tiebreaker.
The two teams will meet for the final time this season next Saturday, but before that, the Blackhawks will come to town on Saturday for their only visit.