NHL: Panthers look to ride magical performance into affair with Devils
Now to see what the Florida Panthers do for an encore.
After setting a franchise record with seven goals in the first period Thursday en route to a 9-5 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Panthers hope to sustain at least some of that roll Saturday when they host the New Jersey Devils in Sunrise, Fla.
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Florida likely will not need a nine-goal outburst to beat the Devils, but dearly could use another victory in its push for a playoff spot, which has been gathering steam the last couple of weeks.
The Panthers (34-27-7, 75 points) are on a 4-0-1 run that has them within three points of a playoff spot with 14 games remaining. Florida has two games in hand on the New York Islanders, who hold the second wild-card position.
“We just want to keep it going,” forward Carter Verhaeghe said. “We didn’t like our game in the third (period) that much. It was a little tough to play there. We liked our game in the first period and we want to keep on going.”
The Panthers can certainly build off that offensive outburst, with a few players on hot streaks. None are hotter than left winger Matthew Tkachuk, who has amassed three or more points in each of the past three games and center Aleksander Barkov, who has recorded eight points (1-7-8) in a five-game spree.
Tkachuk notched four points while Barkov netted two in the wild affair against the Canadiens.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in 25 years, that many goals” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “There were more goals than chances to score, and that’s a rarity. All I can say is that it completely affected the rest of the game for both teams.”
The Devils (44-17-7, 95 points) are right behind the Carolina Hurricanes for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but need to regroup from a pair of losses in consecutive home games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
New Jersey dropped a 4-3 shootout game to the Lightning on Thursday, two nights after losing 4-1.
“We got a point but it still feels like we got out short a little bit,” said captain Nico Hischier, who collected a pair of assists Thursday.
The Devils on three occasions erased a one-goal deficit but could not summon a go-ahead goal, and have lost consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 23-28.
Not all the news is bad for the Devils, though. Forward Timo Meier scored twice, including the game-tying tally late in the third period to force overtime. Meier, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks before the trade deadline, scored in his Devils’ debut, but had been blanked in the five games that followed.
His first Thursday came on a rebound from a sharp angle after he passed to Hischier on the rush. Meier’s second was a rocket of a short-side one-timer from the right circle. It was his team’s first power-play goal in four games.
“Timo’s just trying to fit in and sometimes it takes 10 or 15 games to figure out what fits,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We know he’s a great shooter, so you got to get the puck on his stick. We got to get him in position to shoot.”
–Field Level Media
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