Florida Raises Hell in the Third, Knock off Devils

New Jersey Devils

Photo by Florida Panthers

Sunrise, FL – There’s no denying it, the Florida Panthers have been hot in the month of March. However, beating the New Jersey Devils was a difficult task, as the Devils got out to a 2-0 lead in the second period.

Fortunately for Florida, the rally Cats did respond with four unanswered goals in the third, as Florida added to their hot streak with a decisive 4-2 win.

You Won’t Find Halos Here

Florida is coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season – a 9-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens, in which the Cats put up seven goals in the first period alone. On top of that, they’ve won four of their last five games, all of which are part of a massive home stretch that continues into the Devils game.

That said, they still find themselves one spot outside the playoffs, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders for the final Wild Card spot.

The New Jersey Devils have been a solid team. With a 44-17-7 record, the Devils are one of the toughest opponents Florida has had to play this month. Despite that, they entered the FLA Live Arena matchup losers of two straight games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Line to Hell is Long

The Panthers and Devils had opportunities to score in the first period but fell flat. It wasn’t due to a lack of trying, though, as the Cats dominated the shots on goal early and didn’t look back. As they earned seven shots within the first ten minutes, New Jersey’s defense was put to the test, but they did their job.

On the flip side, the Panthers were hit with a holding penalty late giving the Devils their first power play opportunity and best chance to score, but Sergei Bobrovsky and the Cats defense held through and forced a scoreless first period.

Florida Faces Their Sins

The New Jersey Devils upped the ante in the second period as they’ve done quite a bit this season. But the way they capitalized wasn’t even on them.

After a cross-checking penalty on the Devils, the Cats looked to get on the board first but a breakaway opportunity for spelled doom for Florida as center Nico Hischier cooked Bobrovsky in a one-on-one for a short-handed goal just two minutes in.

The Devils doubled down five minutes later when Florida had to endure three straight shots on goal in rapid succession, including one where Bobrovsky had to dive away from the net to save. Center Jesper Boqvist took advantage of the rebound and sank a shot on an empty net for goal number two.

New Jersey was the better team in the second period, eventually tying and then overlapping the shots on goal category. Later on, the Devils were called for multiple penalties but their defense stepped up and denied an answer from Florida for the rest of the period.

Finished With a Prayer

The Panthers began the third period looking to rally back from a deficit, something that they haven’t done all that well this season. They upped the intensity, matching New Jersey’s physicality blow for blow.

Florida would finally get on the scoreboard six minutes in, as the captain Aleksander Barkov converted a shot off the rebound right in front of the net for the first goal of the period.

The second goal was thanks in part to an interference call on New Jersey, giving the Cats the advantage. After a quick faceoff, center Sam Reinhart converted a tip-in that trickled in for the second straight goal, and Florida had all the momentum.

Less than a minute later, left-wing Matthew Tkachuk turned the tables with one of his best goals of the season- a jab into the open net with the back of his stick to give the lead to the Panthers for the first time all game, his 32nd goal this season.

What followed Tkachuk’s goal was about 11 minutes of stress with Florida’s defense mainly holding off New Jersey’s response for an equalizer.

With two minutes left in the game, New Jersey took their goalie out for one last chance to get a quick score, but after some time, Barkov broke free and handed the puck off to Reinhart for his second goal of the day and an empty netter to seal the game for the Cats.

A Look at the Holy Statistics

Florida once again led the shots on goal category with 41 in total, but the New Jersey Devils weren’t far behind with 35 of their own. Meanwhile, the Cats were the more physical team with 39 hits and had twice as many power play opportunities, cashing in on one of them.

Bobrovsky had a busy night, racking up 33 saves. After the unfortunate second period, he held his own and didn’t allow any more scoring for the rest of the night.

The win bumps up Florida’s record to 35-27-7, and adds to their 21 wins at home. Now, the Panthers are only a single point behind Pittsburgh for the final Wild Card spot.

The Cats will have to say goodbye to the FLA Arena for a while as they’ll play their next two games on the road. They’ll travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Monday at 7 pm, then face the Philadelphia Flyers the following day at 7 pm.

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