Although the Florida Panthers played one of their most complete games of the season Saturday, it was three of their top forwards who scored all of the goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the host Carolina Hurricanes.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair teamed up for Florida’s first and final goals of the night with Carter Verhaeghe getting the two middle ones.
Regardless of that, Florida rolled four complete lines Saturday night with everyone getting involved.
In Thursday’s shootout loss in Dallas, coach Andrew Brunette lamented that his team had “too many passengers.”
That certainly was not the case Saturday in Raleigh.
“I was really happy, thought we played a strong game,” Brunette said after the Panthers won for just the third time on the road since he took over as coach in October. “There was a little here-and-there, but it was a really good road game. We’re trying to build … we haven’t been bad, but I’m not sure we brought our A-Game every night on the road and tonight, for the most part, we did. …
“They all contributed in their own way tonight, brought something. We had no passengers tonight. I thought everyone came ready to play and to play hard.”
Florida needed a big game Saturday after struggling to get into the win column away from the friendly confines of FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers had lost nine of 10 road games coming into Saturday — but deserved everything they got Saturday night.
“It was a great game and we were expecting that,” said Duclair, who scored the game-winner 2:53 into overtime.
“It was a huge road win for the boys, they are a great team and we know that. We played against them last year and had some great battles so we knew exactly what to expect from them. That’s a hard-working game for 60 minutes and that’s what we got. It’s not surprising it went to extra time.”
Saturday night, the Panthers wasted no time getting the scoring started.
Duclair strung a pass to Jonathan Huberdeau, who roofed the puck past Alex Lyon to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead just 1:05 into the game.
Teuvo Teravainen tied the game up for the Hurricanes just a few minutes later on the power play — only Verhaeghe took over, driving play and creating scoring chances.
It culminated in back-to-back goals for the Florida winger, one with 2:20 to go in the first period and the other 35 seconds into the second, putting the Panthers up 3-1.
“We liked our game right from the very start,” Verhaeghe said. “We came out hot and getting wins on the road is huge especially in this building because they are really good, too. It definitely felt good tonight.
“I think lately our line has been pretty dangerous and we have been getting a ton of chances. You saw it Dallas. We got a ton of chances just were not rewarded. Tonight we got rewarded a little better.”
The Panthers held that 3-1 lead until Brady Skjei cut Florida’s lead to 3-2 with 5:46 to go in the second period.
Seth Jarvis then tied the game for the Hurricanes just 1:45 into the third period.
That was the last goal that was scored in regulation, with the Panthers securing a six-game point streak.
The Panthers secured the win when Duclair received a beautiful feed from Huberdeau and put it past Alex Lyon with 2:07 to go in overtime.
”As I have said before, Huby is such a special player,” Duclair said. “One of the best playmakers in the league, the best I have ever played with. Whenever I get the puck I try to put it into his hands because it’s coming right back. He makes amazing plays every night and I try to feed off of that.”
The win put the Panthers atop the NHL standings in a tie with Tampa Bay and was their second against the Hurricanes in as many meetings this season.
Florida will return to Raleigh as least one more time this season as the game scheduled for Dec. 27 which was postponed will be made up, likely next month.
For the Panthers, it was another test passed against one of the league’s best.
And, make no mistake, the Panthers are one of the league’s very best.
“This is probably the most fun you can have as a hockey player, playing in these important games against good competition,” Verhaeghe said.
“It’s no fun losing by a lot or blowing a team out by a lot. These get the competitive juices flowing. Same with Dallas. They are a good team as well. It’s a lot more fun.”