The Florida Panthers found themselves playing a depleted Washington Capitals team as they attempted to stay atop the Eastern Conference wild card race but had a real battle on their hands.
And, they had not one but two goals taken off the board due to high sticks in front of the net.
It was that kind of night for the Panthers — but they found a way in the third period.
Matthew Tkachuk won it, too.
Tkachuk scored the game-winner with a minute remaining in regulation leading the Panthers to a 4-2 win and their sixth consecutive victory.
With both Pittsburgh and the Islanders winning on Saturday, the playoff race remains as it was — Florida and New York are tied for the two spots with the Penguins a point back.
All three teams have a game remaining.
Florida appeared to take the initial lead twice on Saturday — but both times, the goals were pulled off the board.
In the first period, Tkachuk batted in a Brandon Montour shot but after a lengthy video review, it was ruled a no-goal for a high stick.
Sam Reinhart got the same treatment in the second although his high stick was pretty obvious.
That opened the door for Dylan Strome to get the first official goal of the night for the Capitals.
Florida ended up taking a 2-1 lead in the second on goals from Carter Verhaeghe and Aaron Ekblad only Tom Wilson tied it up again.
The Panthers came out strong in the third period but could not solve Charlie Lindgren until Tkachuk scored.
Florida went 0-for-2 on the power play and ended up outshooting the Capitals 18-3 in the third period.
Alex Lyon ended the night with 22 saves for Florida.
The game-winner for Tkachuk was his 40th of the season as he joins Verhaeghe in the 40-goal club — becoming just the third player in Florida history to hit the mark.
Pavel Bure is the other.
Not too shabby.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Capitals 1, Panthers 0 (8:51, 2nd): Dylan Strome follows up on a rebound left by Tom Wilson to officially give Washington the initial lead.
- Panthers 1, Capitals 1 (10:56, 2nd): Carter Verhaeghe fires off a shot from the half wall that beats Charlie Lindgren for his 41st of the season.
- Panthers 2, Capitals 1 (13:47, 2nd): Aaron Ekblad officially extends his point streak to seven games by pounding a fat rebound off a Sam Reinhart shot.
- Capitals 2, Panthers 2 (16:05, 2nd): Wilson gets in behind the Florida defense and bangs in a Connor Sheary pass to tie things up.
- Panthers 3, Capitals 2 (19:00, 3rd): Matthew Tkachuk officially got his 40th goal of the season, throwing up another shot from the half wall. This one gave the Panthers a huge two points in the standings with their sixth consecutive win.
- Panthers 4, Capitals 2 (19:20, 3rd): Reinhart gets it into an empty net and that’s that.
GR’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida
2. Aaron Ekblad, Florida
3. Sam Reinhart, Florida
PANTHERS ON DECK
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Toronto leads 2-1): Maple Leafs 5, Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 47-36-7, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m.