Florida Panthers coach Andrew Brunette warned that his team better be ready to play when the puck dropped in a Saturday matinee against the host New Jersey Devils.
They were not.
When it comes to the Comeback Cats, however, sometimes big deficits simply do not matter.
The Panthers, who trailed 6-2 in the third period, scored four in the third to force overtime and pulled out a 7-6 win over the stunned Devils at Prudential Center in Newark.
Gus Forsling got his second of the game in overtime to give Florida the win as the Panthers reached 100 points in a season for just the second time in franchise history as well as tied the record for most wins (47) in a season.
Florida has 14 games remaining in the regular season.
Saturday also marked Florida’s second comeback win when trailing by at least three goals in the third period and fourth comeback win when trailing by three goals at any point in a game.
Florida’s four three-goal comeback wins this season are tied for most in a single season in NHL history.
For New Jersey, Yegor Sharangovich picked up his first career hat trick as his third goal of the day came shorthanded and gave the Devils a 5-2 lead in the second.
Florida found itself trailing by deficits of two and three goals at different points early in the game as the Devils — smarting from an 8-1 loss in Boston on Thursday — zipped around and made the Panthers pay for their numerous mistakes.
The Panthers did get goals from defensemen Ben Chiarot (his first with Florida) and Radko Gudas (second of the season) to stanch the bleeding.
Brandon Montour and Forsling also got into the d-men scoring attack as the Panthers started making their run early in the third.
Florida scored four goals in the third — Sasha Barkov scored the final two in the third as the Panthers went with the empty net — to force overtime.
The matinee got off to an ominous start for Florida as Gudas turned over the puck in his own zone and Sharangovich got his first of the day just 3:25 into the game.
A mere 17 seconds later and it was 2-0 after Forsling coughed it up by the net and Jack Hughes cashed in.
Florida cut the lead to a goal on Chiarot’s shot from the left circle through traffic at 9:02, but the Panthers went into the break being outshot 12-5.
The Devils did not relent to start the second, Sharangovich spinning and whipping a shot from the right circle past starter Sergei Bobrovsky two minutes in.
Not a minute later and it was 4-1 with Janne Kuokkanen scoring off yet another Florida turnover.
Gudas got his goal not long after coming out of the penalty box, throwing up a shot and then bodying his own rebound as he slammed on the brakes as he approached goalie Andrew Hammond; the puck hit Gudas, went over Hammond and into the net at 11:17.
Florida’s ray of light was shortlived.
New Jersey took apart Florida’s five-forward power play with Nico Hischier working the puck away along the boards and getting it to Sharangovich who walked in on Bobrovsky and burned him with some pretty stick work for his third of the day.
Andreas Johnsson all but ended things with 3:52 left in the second.
But wait, there’s more…
Spencer Knight, who is expected to start Sunday’s afternoon affair in Buffalo, replaced Bobrovsky (19 saves) in an act of mercy for the third.
The Panthers went to work on yet another comeback down four in the third with Montour scoring at 5:34 followed by Forsling hopping on a loose puck less than two minutes later.
Carter Verhaeghe put the puck in the net off a MacKenzie Weegar shot from the point with 11:15 left, but his high-stick was obvious and the goal was waved off immediately.
Florida pulled Knight for the extra attacker and Barkov got the first non-defenseman goal of the day for the Panthers by one-timing a Sam Bennett pass with 4:37 left.
A one-goal game with plenty of time remaining — and Barkov tied it with 1:24 left as Knight returned to the bench.
The Panthers were able to keep the Devils out of the net in overtime as Knight made one save — with Forsling scoring the game-winner at 1:45 of the extra session.
From the third period on, Florida outshot the Devils 25-6.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sasha Barkov, Florida
2. Igor Sharangovich, New Jersey
3. Gus Forsling, Florida
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT BUFFALO SABRES
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- Where: Key Bank Center, Buffalo
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- Season Series — Florida leads 2-0: @Florida 7, Sabres 4 (Dec. 2); Florida 6, @Buffalo 1 (March 7)
- All-time regular season series: Buffalo leads 52-44-5, 4 ties