The Florida Panthers received a much-needed boost from a shootout victory before embarking on a difficult California trip that begins with a matchup against the surging San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Florida rallied to tie Dallas in the third period, weathered the storm in overtime and got the winner from Vincent Trocheck in the bonus format for a 4-3 victory Tuesday to avoid owning sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Division.
“You see teams win one, lose one all the time,” Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo told reporters after the victory. “The good teams are able to put it on the ice every night on a consistent basis. That’s how we’re going to turn this thing around.” Florida, which is 30th in the league goals-against per game (3.76), also meets Los Angeles and Anaheim on the trip and leans on an offense which boasts four players that are averaging at least one point per outing. San Jose will present quite a challenge for the Panthers after winning six of its last seven games while lowering its league-best, goal-against mark to 2.25. Logan Couture has led the Sharks offense, registering 10 goals and 15 points on the season after scoring twice against Vancouver in a 5-0 victory Saturday and notching an assist in Sunday’s 2-1 triumph over Los Angeles.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FSN Florida, NBCSN California (San Jose)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (6-9-2): Left wing Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice against Dallas and pushed his team-leading total to 21 points - two better than center Aleksander Barkov, who has two goals and two assists over the past three contests. Trocheck had an assist before his shootout winner and has accumulated seven points in six games this month while Evgenii Dadonov (17 points) has three in the last three. Captain Derek MacKenzie and Jared McCann are questionable with lower-body injuries and Florida recalled fellow forward Chase Balisy from the American Hockey League as insurance.
ABOUT THE SHARKS (10-6-0): Tomas Hertl and fellow forward Joe Thornton, who missed practice the last two days but will likely be in the lineup, are the only other players in double figures with 10 points. Forwards Barclay Goodrow (two assists, four games) and Joel Ward (two goals, one assist, four games) have formed a solid duo on the fourth line this month: “The thing for us is not giving away the puck,” Ward told reporters. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns (seven assists) still seeks his first goal after scoring 29 last season, while fellow defenseman Paul Martin (ankle) is close a return after missing five weeks.
1. San Jose captain C Joe Pavelski has not scored a goal in four games and is one shy of 300 in his career.
2. Florida D Keith Yandle had two assists Tuesday to push his season total to nine points with a team-best plus-8 rating.
3. The Sharks have earned at least a point in five straight games (3-0-2) against the Panthers, but lost 6-5 in overtime at home last February.
PREDICTION: Panthers 5, Sharks 4