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Comeback Cats, Again? Florida Panthers Rally, Beat the Devils



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Matthew Tkachuk, center, celebrates with his Florida Panthers’ teammates after he scored what would be the game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils in the third period on Saturday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

SUNRISE — Andrew Brunette had the best seat in the house when the Florida Panthers earned ‘Comeback Cats’ moniker last season as they rallied from one deficit after another.

Saturday night, the former interim coach of the Panthers got another up-close look at a Florida rally.

The Panthers continued their hot streak on Saturday by scoring four in the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit in beating Brunette’s New Jersey Devils 4-2.

Florida ended up going 5-1-1 on its seven-game homestand and will ride a six-game (5-0-1) point streak into Detroit after its latest comeback win.

With the victory — and Pittsburgh’s humbling 6-0 loss to the Rangers at the Garden — Florida is now within a point of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The New York Islanders kept their three-game lead on the Panthers for the top wild card spot following an expected win in San Jose late Saturday night.

Regardless, the Panthers have been playing some pretty good hockey of late and Saturday night was another example.

With the exception of some down time in the second period, the Panthers dominated the Devils (a team battling for the Metro Division lead) and looked like a true playoff threat for much of the night.

“I think we came out with it,’’ said Reinhart, adding that New Jersey rookie goalie Akira Schmid “played well in the first period—it just didn’t go in for us.

“I think we slowed down in the second, gave them a little bit too much time and they took over that period. I liked our bounce back in the third period, started moving our feet a little bit, and ultimately created some chances and capitalized.”

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Yeah, Saturday night was (again) one of those nights for the Panthers.

They completely skated rings around the Devils in the opening period yet were scoreless going into the second.

New Jersey got a shorthanded goal from Nico Hischier early in the second then tacked on another to take a 2-0 lead into the second.

The Panthers looked discombobulated for parts of the second and it appeared it would cost them.

Then came the third.

Sasha Barkov — who is now tied with Jonathan Huberdeau for the franchise record in scoring — got things rolling by teeing off on a puck that hit Marc Staal and landed near his stick as he was cruising toward the net.

That got the Sunrise crowd into the game and, within a span of a few minutes (and goals from Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk), the Panthers were suddenly up 3-2.

Reinhart tacked on an empty net goal in the final seconds and that was it.

“We believe in our group,’’ said Brandon Montour, who assisted on the first two goals of the third. “Whether it is 2-0, 1-0 or 3-0, the game is not over until the end. We showed that tonight. We brought a lot of energy in that third and built off of each goal one-by-one.

“We build on the energy of the building, the energy after we score. We’re not out… We score one, it’s still close. Keep going at them, keep putting pressure. Then, obviously, the ball keeps rolling and we get another one. The building gets loud. We feed off the crowd, we feed off each other.”

As big a win as it was for the Panthers, the Devils felt like they let one slip away although this was one Florida definitely deserved the outcome it got.

“Just a couple of big breakdowns I’m embarrassed what we did to our goaltender,’’ Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “After recovering from a tough first period and playing such a good second period to do that to ourselves, that’s more than the punch in the gut. … Doesn’t matter where they got a bounce. Same with the second and third. hat the second and third. We’ve been good with playing with a lead, that one, that’s not Devils hockey.”

Countered Paul Maurice: “We earned the win. We were a good hockey team over the course of the game. They are one of the elite teams in the league right now and they have dominant third periods and we were very strong in ours. You would expect that they would control at least parts of the game, but I thought we were pretty darn strong.”

The Panthers now have two games in a back-to-back road set in Detroit on Monday and in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Sergei Bobrovsky, who ended up with 33 saves on Saturday night, will probably go against the Red Wings with Alex Lyon getting the start in Philly.

The Panthers, with 13 games left, are right in this thing.

The way they have been playing, well, they feel pretty good about themselves.

As they should.

“This time is the most fun to play,’’ Reinhart said. “The atmosphere tonight, you could sense right away. The fans know the position we’re in. We’re enjoying the battle. It was nice to get that win on home ice before we head back on the road. It seems like it has been a long time, so I think it’ll be good for us.”



  • When: Monday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit 
  • Streaming/TV: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 4-0
  • This season (Florida leads 2-0): Panthers 5, Detroit 1 (Dec. 8); Panthers 3, Red Wings 2 (Jan. 6)
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 35-19-6, 5 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

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