Trailing 1-0 just past the midway point of the third period, Mike Hoffman jumpstarted Florida’s comeback with a power play goal that tied the game 1-1 at 13:16. Then, with time running out in regulation, Jonathan Huberdeau finished off a nifty passing sequence to make it 2-1 at 18:54.
The goal was Huberdeau’s second game-winner of the season.
“It shows a lot about our team,” Huberdeau said of the victory. “Last night was a tough game… We didn’t get the start we wanted, but I think we stuck with it. We had so many chances that wouldn’t go in, but at the end it worked out for us. It’s a big two points, but it’s not enough to win just one game. We’ve got to start climbing and get some other wins, too.”
In the end, Florida finished with a 42-24 advantage in scoring chances over the Flyers.
“Me and Barky [Aleksander Barkov] were talking to each other, saying there was no way nothing was going to happen,” said Huberdeau, who finished with three shots on goal. “We had so many chances. Then it finally happened at the end. We just stuck with it, and it worked out for us.”
With the win, the Panthers responded for the fourth time this month after a tough loss – an important quality you’ll find in any good hockey team. They have yet to lose consecutive games since Dec. 11-13, climbing back above .500 and within seven points of a playoff spot at 16-15-6.
“It was a big relief,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “We talked this morning about having a response from last night. I thought we did that. I thought we came out, even though we were down 1-0, we played the same way through the whole game. We didn’t gamble for our goals. We just kept in our structure. It was a good way to win. A good way to win, 2-1.”
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s win in Sunrise…
1. REIMER TIME
James Reimer had his best start of the season on Saturday night.
After surrendering an early goal to Shayne Gostisbehere, the 30-year-old buckled down and was simply unbeatable, finishing the game with 34 saves to improve to 6-3-2 over his last 11 decisions. Of those saves, 15 came in third, including a huge stop in the final seconds of play.
“He was huge for us,” Barkov said of Reimer. “He stopped everything he could. He made a lot of big saves and kept us in the game in the first, second and third period, too. He gave us a chance to win the game. We won for him.”
Reimer’s 34 saves were tied for his second-most in a game this season. In taking a closer look at NaturalStatTrick.com, he also turned away all 10 high-danger scoring chances that came his way, including four shots that were generated off of rebounds. In short: he was a brick wall.
“It was just one of those games where you just kept grinding, you just kept working,” Reimer said. “We kept believing and got rewarded in the end.”
2. THE HOFF SWITCH
When the Panthers were looking for a spark, Hoffman was happy to oblige.
Trailing 1-0 on the power play, Huberdeau connected on a pass across the slot to Hoffman, who then dropped to one knee and blasted a one-timer from the right circle past rookie Carter Hart to make it a 1-1 game at 13:16 of the third period.
Florida has now registered at least one power play in 25 of its last 28 games.
“It’s big,” Huberdeau said. “I think our power play needs to be good every night.”
With the goal, Hoffman now sits alone atop the team’s goal-scoring lead with 18, which ranks tied for 21st in the NHL. The 29-year-old now has six goals over his last 12 games and leads the team with 126 shots on goal, getting at least one puck on net in 36 of 37 games this season.
3. THE RESPONSE
After Friday’s loss to Montreal, Boughner challenged his best players to step up.
On the final goal of Saturday night’s game, those players certainly rose to the occasion, as the top line trio of Huberdeau, Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov were all involved on the game-winning score. Dadonov and Barkov picked up the assists, setting up Huberdeau with gorgeous passes.
“We’ve been talking a lot about responding from those type of games,” Barkov said. “In Minnesota, we were embarrassed after the game. Everybody looked in the mirror, came back and beat Toronto. It was the same thing yesterday. We lost to Montreal, a big game for us. We just weren’t ready to play. But everybody came in and everybody was ready to battle.”
Although you won’t find his name on the scoresheet, Barkov made sure to give teammate Keith Yandle some well-earned credit after the game, as game-winning goal wouldn’t have happened without his outstanding stretch pass from the defensive zone that started the scoring sequence.
“It was nice,” Barkov said. “I was about to go back, but then I realized Yands had the puck, so he’s going to make the play… of course Daddy made a really nice play, went around the defenseman and passed to me. I had an easy job to just lay it to Huby.”
4. HUBERDEAU’S HOT MIC
FOX Sports Florida had a new on-ice correspondent on Saturday night – Huberdeau.
The 25-year-old winger was mic’d up throughout the game, giving fans insight into what is said during the action and on the bench. In the video’s below, you’ll find everything from Huberdeau giving Frank Vatrano some love after saving a goal to chatting with Dadonov on the bench.
Florida’s leading scorer, Huberdeau finished with a goal and an assist against Philadelphia, pushing his point total to a stellar 44 (10 goals, 34 assists) through 37 games. A potential All-Star, he leads the team with 17 multi-point games, including 12 in his last 17 outings alone.
“We’ve got to be there every night,” Huberdeau said of his line. “Tonight, we showed up.”
5. GOALIE MOVES
Prior to puck drop on Saturday night, the Panthers made a move.
Showing confidence in prospect Samuel Montembeault, the team sent third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson to Toronto in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. In four games with the Panthers this season, the 28-year-old went 1-1-2 with a .839 save percentage.
With the move, Montembeault not only becomes the primary option in net with the club’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, but also moves up to third on Florida’s goaltending depth chart. A third-round pick (77th overall) in 2015, the 22-year-old has yet to make his NHL debut.
In the midst of his second professional season, Montembeault owns an 11-6-2 record with a 2.83 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and one shutout. He has faced the eight-most shots in the league (573), while his save percentage ranks 16th among eligible goalies.