SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers got themselves into a dogfight with the Arizona Coyotes and found the will to come out with a win.
Having Matthew Tkachuk and Eric Staal scoring multiple times certainly helped things along.
Tkachuk and Staal combined for five goals — Tkachuk got his first hat trick with the Panthers — as Florida finally ran away from the Coyotes and ended a two-game skid with a 5-3 win Tuesday night.
It may not have been pretty at times, but the win may just give Florida some needed momentum as they hit the road for nine of its next 11 games.
“We needed these two points more than anything because we’re not in the world’s greatest position,’’ Tkachuk said.
“We may not have had our best stuff, but we answered their goals. The guys were working and it was good to see.”
The announced crowd was 19,484.
Tkachuk got the Panthers started 1:09 into the game on an odd-man rush with Sasha Barkov and Staal put them up 2-0 about 10 minutes later.
Things seemed to slip away from them from there.
Arizona would tie the Panthers twice in the second period — Nick Bjugstad got his 10th of the season — but Staal and Tkachuk each scored again and put Florida up for good.
Tkachuk even got a couple dozen new ballcaps just a few days after Barkov got his first hat trick of the season against the Canadiens.
Florida, for the most part, got a complete game and that is definitely a start for a team which is 4-8-0 in its last 12 games.
Now it is a matter of if they can sustain that style of game against better competition.
Florida’s past four wins have been against three bottom-5 teams and a New Jersey Devils team that was knee-deep in a six-game losing streak that it ended against the Panthers four nights later.
They will have a chance to prove themselves in their upcoming four-game road trip where they will face off against four teams that all sit with a points percentage above .550.
”You always have to win the game before you go on a road trip and you always have to win the one at the end to come back home,” Tkachuk said.
”It’s those kind of games that carry on whether you are going on the road or coming home. It is always important to get that and our season is pretty much on the line this road trip when you look at it.”
THE GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Coyotes 0 (1:09, 1st): Matthew Tkachuk banged a Sasha Barkov feed past Karel Vejmelka with a wrist shot from below the circle.
- Panthers 2, Coyotes 0 (11:21, 1st): Eric Staal fired a wide-angle shot over Vejmelka’s shoulder with Givani Smith screening him.
- Panthers 2, Coyotes 1 (19:57, 1st): Jakob Chychrun tapped in a power play goal off a feed from Clayton Keller in the dying seconds of the opening frame.
- Coyotes 2, Panthers 2 (5:17, 2nd): Keller sent a backhand shot from the top of the face-off circle past Spencer Knight to tie the game up.
- Panthers 3, Coyotes 2 (10:37, 2nd): Tkachuk got his second goal of the game with a sharp-angle shot off of a cross-ice feed from Josh Mahura.
- Coyotes 3, Panthers 3 (13:59, 2nd): Nick Bjugstad tipped a J.J. Moser shot past Knight to tie the game back up.
- Panthers 4, Coyotes 3 (16:01, 2nd): Eric Staal beat Vejmelka with a wrist shot from the slot to score his second of the night and his third in the last three games.
- Panthers 5, Coyotes 3 (19:29, 2nd): Tkachuk completed the hat trick by punching in his own rebound off of a cross-crease feed by Sam Reinhart on the power play.
TKA LEADS THE WAY
Matthew Tkachuk willed the Panthers out of a dog fight with three crucial goals.
He came out of the gate with fire, springing on an odd-man rush with Sasha Barkov and blasting a feed over Karel Vejmelka’s outstretched pad to get things started.
He then broke a 2-2 tie when the game was starting to get away from them with some netfront wizardry and then put Florida back up by two goals late in the second with his usual drive and determination.
He is called the NHL’s unicorn for a reason — he can do just about anything on the ice.
Spencer Knight even got in on the act, recording his first NHL point with the secondary assist on Tkachuk’s third goal.
ERIC STAAL KEEPS GOING
After going into December without a point, Eric Staal now has six goals and 12 points in his last 16 games since.
Staal rang in 2023 with three goals and four points in his first two games of the New Year.
“After taking a year off, it was going to take a while, but he keeps building and getting better without opportunity for offense,” Paul Maurice said.
”He is not on the power plays, he is playing in the four-hole, the guys he is playing with aren’t shooters, so he’s earned all of those goals. When it comes off of his stick, it’s his… There’s a guy who’s got 1,300 points but I still think he’s got more.”
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida (3 goals)
2. Eric Staal, Florida (2 goals)
3. Clayton Keller, Arizona (goal, assist)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT DETROIT RED WINGS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
- Streaming/TV: 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 4-0
- This season (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Detroit 1 (Dec. 8)
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 34-19-6, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Sunday at Dallas, 3:30 p.m.