SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a few days early on Thursday night.
The goals flowed as if coming from a freshly tapped keg.
The Panthers were aggressive from the start, scoring four in the first.
Philadelphia got three back in the second.
Florida won the third — and as it would turn out, the game — as Anthony Duclair scored for the fourth straight night as the Panthers’ went 3-for-3 on the power play.
Thanks to Duclair’s goal and a hat trick from Sam Reinhart, the Panthers swept the three-game season series by beating the Flyers 6-3 at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers have won their past five games and their lead over the Lightning in the Atlantic Division swelled to five points — perhaps just temporarily with Tampa Bay playing Thursday in Calgary.
Florida played its final home game for the next 19 days Thursday, and it looked like they wanted to leave their fans something to remember — even if a few started celebrating the holiday a week early.
It looked like the Panthers were going to run away with this one, especially after scoring three goals within a five-minute span late in the first.
Carter Verhaeghe gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 3:26 into the game with a nifty wrist shot from the right circle.
The score stayed that way until the Panthers got their first power play chance of the game. Florida has been pretty potent with the man advantage of late and that trend continued here.
With 5:48 left in the period, Jonathan Huberdeau sent a shot to the net that Reinhart got a chunk of and it was 2-0.
Not four minutes later and Huberdeau and Reinhart teamed up again to make a 3-0 lead. Reinhart, for the second straight game, scored with a nice baseball swing which should have the Marlins calling.
Tuesday, he squared up and swung in front of Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry; Thursday, he looked more like Vladimir Guerrero swinging from his shoelaces.
The Panthers capped off their rollicking opening period with Verhaeghe’s second of the period as he waltzed into the Philadelphia zone and beat Carter Hart with another wrist shot.
This one looked all wrapped up, right?
The Flyers kicked off the second with a power play they didn’t score on but definitely kept the puck mor and started putting some heat on Sergei Bobrovsky.
At 9:01, Philadelphia got its first of the game, James van Riemsdyk getting one from in front of the net.
Three minutes later, Cam Atkinson scored on his former Columbus teammate by charging in and picking off a rebound.
With 1:08 left in the second, Philadelphia snapped Florida’s penalty kill run at 14 straight as Travis Konecny tipped in a long shot from Cam York.
The Panthers’ power play heater continued in the third as Duclair’s shot from the right circle went off Patrick Brown in the slot and past Hart for a 5-3 advantage at 6:59 of the period.
Reinhart was playing blocker in front and it may have appeared as if he touched the puck on its way through — but he did not. A dozen or so hats hit the ice to celebrate a hat trick that never was.
Hey, if you can celebrate St. Paddy’s Day early, why not a hat trick?
Turns out, those early hats joined the ones thrown with 2:06 remaining when Huberdeau passed up the empty net and slid the puck to his new best friend.
For Reinhart it was his second hat trick of the season, sixth of his career.
The four-assist night gives Huberdeau the franchise record for single-season assists and also 82 points this season.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sam Reinhart, Florida
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida
3. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida