December 20, 2017 / 5:28 AM / a year ago

Panthers rally late, KO Coyotes

Panthers rally late, KO Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. — One faceoff, one quick shot, one unexpected goal and one comeback started. The Florida Panthers flipped what was a one-sided game just like that, and the Arizona Coyotes never saw it coming.

Mike Matheson finished off a six-minute, three-goal Florida flurry that turned around a game Arizona was dominating, and the Panthers ran the Coyotes’ losing streak to seven with a 3-2 comeback victory Tuesday night.

Nick Bjugstad scored off a faceoff with 10 seconds left in the second period win to start the rally. Denis Malgin tied it early in the third period, and James Reimer stopped 39 shots as Florida halted a three-game skid and won for only the third time in 10 games.

“The guys got going and came up with some huge goals, and it was a real fun team win,” Reimer said.

Only three nights after his team squandered a game against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the final 15 seconds, Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said this was an even more disappointing loss in a season filled with such losses for the Coyotes, who are an NHL-worst 7-24-5.

“It hurts, and it’s tough. I can name 15 games where we had the game in hand and somehow the other team found a way to win and we found a way to lose it,” Tocchet said.

It all happened so quickly.

Arizona’s Christian Fischer scored late in the first period, just after a power play ended. Derek Stepan added a goal late in the second to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in a game in which they outshot Florida 32-14 over the first two periods.

However, Bjugstad’s ninth goal of the season, on a wrist shot from the left circle that immediately followed Derek MacKenzie’s faceoff win, clearly shifted the momentum, and Arizona seemed to shut down after that. In their previous game, the Coyotes lost 4-2 to Pittsburgh by allowing two goals in the final seconds.

“One shot kind of changed the whole thing, and that’s pretty much what happened,” Arizona goalie Antti Raanta said.

Because of the late-second-period goal, Bjugstad said, “We had some momentum, and we had some energy and some optimism going into (the third period).”

Malgin tied it at 3:37 of the third, skating undefended into the lower right circle to beat Raanta with a wrist shot created by Evgenii Dadonov’s pass from the left circle. Dadonov assisted on Florida’s final two goals.

Raanta, who got little work over the first two periods before ending with 23 saves, momentarily kept it tied with an excellent glove save on Colton Sceviour’s wrist shot only 16 seconds after Malgin scored.

However, Raanta couldn’t stop Matheson after the defenseman jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated down the slot, switching from his backhand to his forehand with Jason Demers hanging on him before putting a shot inside the near post at 5:41 of the third.

“That third period, that’s the Florida Panthers’ identity — playing fast and playing hard,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.

It was a role reversal for Florida, which was tied 2-2 against Vegas in the third period Sunday, only to give up three consecutive goals while being outshot 20-2 in the period.

In less than six minutes, Florida scored more goals at Arizona than in any game there since 2006, and more goals than it scored in any of its most recent four games this season. The Panthers won in Arizona for the first time since 1999.

“They took control in third period, and we didn’t have a response,” Fischer said.

Arizona, outshot 81-50 in its past two games, finished with a 41-26 shots edge Tuesday but still lost its 10th in 11 games (1-8-2).

“I don’t understand how we have the game in control and it just turns and we give them two blatant goals — it makes no sense to me,” Tocchet said. “But we’ll get it right, we’ve got to weed some people out of here eventually and get this right.”

NOTES: The Coyotes scratched RW Anthony Duclair. ... RW Nick Merkley, the second of the Coyotes’ two first-round draft picks in 2015, made his NHL debut after being recalled from Tucson (AHL). He played nearly 13 minutes. ... C Dylan Strome, the first of those two first-round picks, was sent back to Tucson. ... Arizona acquired F Josh Archibald, G Sean Maguire and a 2019 sixth-round pick from Pittsburgh for G Michael Leighton, who was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), and a 2019 fourth-round pick. Archibald is expected to join the Coyotes. ... Arizona is 3-11-1 at home.

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