It was certainly excusable to have missed the end of the Florida Panthers game against host San Jose because, well, it did end at around 1:15 on Wednesday morning.
Those who stayed up late were rewarded with a strong third-period effort from the Panthers.
Florida, which fell behind the last-place Sharks in the third, ended up scoring three times in the final half of the period to pull off a 5-3 win and extend its winning streak to five.
“I mean, we got the win,’’ said Carter Verhaeghe, who scored his 100th NHL goal to tie the score midway through the third. “We stuck with it. It was sort of a low-energy game, it is tough traveling to the west coast with the time change and everything. But there are no bad wins in the NHL.’’
When the game started late Tuesday night, the Panthers seemed about as into the game as the sparse crowd which spread out at the SAP Center.
Not criticizing, but with the Sharks now 2-13-1, pulling in a big crowd on a Tuesday night is a tough ask.
Both teams seemed to slog through the first two periods although there were certainly some good moments.
Take for instance Florida’s second power play opportunity, one in which Sam Reinhart picked up his fourth goal in as many games and 12th of the season.
Reinhart’s goal made it 2-1, a score which stood up going into the third after Anthony Stolarz made 15 saves through the first 40 minutes.
San Jose broke through in the third, getting a power play goal from Tomas Hertl at 6:11 before Luke Kunin scored a minute later on a delayed penalty.
If the Panthers were not awake before, being down 3-2 appeared to be an attention-getter.
“I was not down on the way that we played at all,’’ said coach Paul Maurice, who moved around the lines to try and get things rolling.
“I thought San Jose played a good game. You’re not going to get an easy game in the NHL when they play as hard as they did. We got a couple bad breaks, but we didn’t change our game. We were playing the exact same game we played five minutes before in part because we were pretty confident in it.”
Florida went on the power play itself with Verhaeghe getting his 91st goal with the Panthers by one-timing a Matthew Tkachuk pass at 10:06.
Then came a beautiful deflection of a point shot from Uvis Balinskis by Kevin Stenlund from 25 feet out to make it 4-3 at 11:09.
“We know our strengths as a team and know we can score at anytime,’’ Stenlund said. “We were confident. We just needed to keep working and we did that.’’
Less than 40 seconds later, Sam Bennett scored to make it 5-3 — only San Jose challenged for offside.
The game probably would have ended before 1 a.m. local time had it not been for a way-too-long video review which took the goal off the board.
Bennett’s first goal of the season was gone — but the Panthers still had a lead.
San Jose pulled goalie Mackenzie Blackwood with 3-plus minutes remaining.
Good for Sasha Barkov, who pounced on a bouncing puck, strolled toward the empty net and deposited the puck with 2:13 remaining for the final goal of the night.
That was just about that.
“It was a great battle by the guys all the way to the end,” Barkov said. “We deserved to win today.’’
Florida is now 2-0 against the Sharks this season and both games were 1-goal games before empty net goals ended them.
The Panthers won in Sunrise 3-1 last month — Stenlund got that one — and this was a 1-goal game until Barkov’s empty-netter.
Still, Florida has now won its past 10 games against the Sharks, outscoring them 43-22 in the process.
Stolarz ended up with 19 saves as he ran his personal record to 10-1-0 against the Sharks.
Now, the Panthers head south toward Los Angeles where they have not had that sort of success against the Kings.
Extending their winning streak to six will not be easy.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ LOS ANGELES KINGS
- When: Thursday, 10:30 p.m.
- Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
- Last season: Los Angeles won 2-0
- This season: @Los Angeles, Thursday; @Florida Jan. 11
- All-time regular season series: Los Angeles leads 25-14-0, 3 ties