The rest of the NHL still isn’t aware of how good the Panthers’ top line is. Maybe after their performance on Tuesday night, things will change.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice, Aleksander Barkov recorded a goal and an assist, and Evgenii Dadonov notched an assist as the Panthers rolled past the Dallas Stars in a 4-3 shootout victory.
“Every game we want to win,” Barkov said. “That’s what we wanted to do tonight.”
The trio combined for all three of the Panthers’ goals before Barkov – who logged a regular season career-high 28:55 of ice time – and Vincent Trocheck each scored in the shootout, the latter coming as the game-winner.
Both goals by Huberdeau came within ten minutes of each other on the power play in the first period as the Panthers took a 2-0 lead relatively quickly.
It was the ninth two-goal performance of his career and second of the season as he added to his team-leading point total of 21 through 17 games. He also recorded season-highs in ice time (22:20) and shots (six).
He left the game early in the second period after a hard check by Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns, and in the time he was gone, the Panthers’ lead and strong play withered away.
The Stars scored twice to take a 3-2 lead, with the first coming off a blatant giveaway by Roberto Luongo behind his own net – and the second off a Remi Elie backhander that deflected off the stick of Mackenzie Weegar.
They allowed 18 shots and nine 5v5 scoring chances in the middle frame while countering with just four shots and one scoring chance of their own.
Huberdeau returned about 15 minutes later in the second, and it turned out to be just in time for Barkov to tie the game at three just under three minutes into the third period.
Barkov, the NHL’s leading Finnish point-getter, notched his sixth goal of the season by redirecting a blocked Mike Matheson point shot from the side of the net.
Matheson played in his 100th NHL game as Medicine Hat, Alberta-native Curtis Valk made his league debut after an injury to Derek MacKenzie on Saturday forced his recall from the Panthers’ AHL affiliate.
Valk recorded one shot while logging a mere 3:25 of ice time, including one shift in the third period.
The Stars entered the game with the third-best penalty kill percentage (86.7) and the best power play percentage (31.4) in the league, but the Panthers managed two goals on five man-advantage opportunities and silenced Dallas on their two chances.
It was just the second time this season that the Panthers scored at least two power play goals, with the most recent occurrence coming on October 21st against the Washington Capitals.
Roberto Luongo made 40 saves on 43 shots – in addition to two in the shootout – and none bigger than a point-blank stop with his blocker in overtime to keep the Panthers alive.
“I thought for sure it was over after that play,” admitted head coach Boughner.
Said Luongo: “There was a guy right in front. I was trying to be as patient as possible and [Alexander Radulov] waited me out, actually. He ended up making a pass in the slot, so I just tried to recover as quickly as I can on my knees and just tried to make a reactionary save there and got it with my blocker.”
At the other end, Kari Lehtonen 26 of the Panthers’ 29 shots while his one stop in the shootout came on Huberdeau’s attempt.
The Panthers have seen some marginal improvements defensively as of late and now have wins in two of their last three games as they prepare for a three-game California road trip which begins Thursday in San Jose.
“I talked this morning about how well we’ve played in the last two games,” Boughner said. “It was a great start by us. The second period was obviously our downfall a little bit. We talked in between periods about getting back to our identity; doing the things we do well when we’re playing our game.
Thursday’s game will be Boughner’s first visit to San Jose as an NHL head coach and first game back since serving as the Sharks’ assistant coach for the past two seasons.
The Sharks sit in third place in Pacific Division with 10 wins on the season.
“You see teams win one, lose one all the time,” said Luongo. “The good teams are able to put it on the ice every night on a consistent basis and that’s how we’re going to turn this thing around.”
- Alex Petrovic sat out as a healthy scratch for the sixth time this season and the third straight game.
- The Montreal Canadiens claimed goaltender Antti Niemi off waivers from the Panthers on Tuesday afternoon.
- Jared McCann was placed on injured reserve on Monday to make room for Curtis Valk, but it was a retroactive move, so he could possibly return within the next few days or this weekend.