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Top Line Leads Florida Panthers Over Ottawa Senators



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Matthew Tkachuk celebrates his empty-net goal — which was tossed his way from Anton Lundell — as the Florida Panthers beat Ottawa 5-3 on Saturday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers wanted their top line to shoot the puck more and they have answered in a big way the past two games.

On Saturday, Carter Verhaeghe scored twice with Sasha Barkov ending his eight-game goal  drought in a 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Matthew Tkachuk, going against his younger brother Brady for the 16th time in their careers, had two assists before Anton Lundell very nicely slid him a pass for an empty net goal in the final seconds.

All told, the Panthers took 58 shots on goal with 84 shot attempts in the win.

Florida’s top trio ended the night with 16 of those official shots on goalie Anton Forsberg. ‘

“That line has been really, really good,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

”There is a little bit more playmaking and netfront [ability] now and Matthew has an incredible set of hands on him. He can make small-area plays and that takes pressure off. You see Carter full-speed more often and you see the same with Sasha.”

Said Verhaeghe: “It feels like every time we’re on the ice we’re playing in the offensive zone and making plays and getting chances. Those two are a lot of fun to play with.”

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As much as Florida’s top line did against the Senators, Florida needed a goal from defenseman Brandon Montour to snap a 3-3 tie with 3:32 left.

Verhaeghe, Barkov and Tkachuk had a piece of all five goals.

Tkachuk picked up two assists and an empty net goal in his first matchup against his brother, Brady, since joining the Panthers this summer.

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Brady Tkachuk finished the game with a goal of his own.

“I love playing against him — it is one of the biggest honors for me to see him play in the NHL,” Matthew said.

”I’m so proud of him. I’m his biggest fan and he is my biggest. We’re very proud and we love that part, but at the end of the day, we are going to be on two teams fighting for playoff hops against each other for years to come, so that part might kind of suck for the family”

Verhaeghe opened the scoring with a laser of a snap shot from above the slot off of a masterful pass from Tkachuk off of a spin move 7:59 into the first period.

After White drew a holding penalty on a high-danger scoring chance, members of that top line went back to work on the power play.

Barkov ended an eight-game, season-opening scoring drought with a wrist shot that beat Anton Forsberg with 8:06 to go in the first period.

”Whenever you score every game, you feel confident like every shot you take is going to go in,” Barkov said.

”Right now, it was not the case. I was not feeling that way every shot. I am happy the monkey is off my back and I can finally get back to scoring goals.”

It was Florida’s first power play goal at home, ending an 0-for-12 stretch over four games at FLA Live Arena to start the season.

After a first period that saw the Panthers left with a 2-0 lead and dominated in shots (26-4), scoring chances (14-3) and high-danger chances (7-1), the Senators jumped out to a hot start to the second.

Shane Pinto snapped a feed from Claude Giroux far side to cut Florida’s lead in half with a power play marker 37 seconds into the frame.

Brady Tkachuk got in on the action less than three minutes later with a breakaway goal to tie the game.

Ottawa appeared to take the lead when a Tim Stutzle shot took a bounce off of Verhaeghe’s skate and in, but it was taken off the board after the Panthers successfully challenged it for goaltender interference.

Upon video review, it was determined that Jake Sanderson impaired Spencer Knight’s ability to make a save prior to Stuzle’s shot entering the net.

Verhaeghe restored Florida’s lead with a booming slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle with 36.5 seconds to go in the second period.

Matthew Tkachuk appeared to have extended Florida’s lead back to two goals with 11:01 to go, but it was taken off the board due to a successful offside challenge from Ottawa.

Just under three minutes later, Nick Holden tied the game with a wrist shot through heavy traffic.

Montour put the Panthers back on top for good with a blast from the point with 3:32 to go.

Tkachuk finished things off with an empty-net goal with 13 seconds to go.

Florida finished the game with a 58-26 lead in shots while Knight stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced.


1. Brandon Montour, Florida (game-winning goal, assist)

2. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida (empty-net goal, two assists)

3. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida (two goals)



  • When: Tuesday, 10 p.m.
  • Where: Arizona State Mullett Arena, Tempe
  • TV/Streaming: 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 2-0
  • All-time regular season series: Arizona leads 19-16-2, 3 ties

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