December 29, 2017 / 4:42 AM / in a year

Panthers hold off Flyers for 4th straight win

Panthers hold off Flyers for 4th straight win

SUNRISE, Fla. — The four-day holiday layoff did nothing to cool off the Florida Panthers.

Goalie James Reimer was Florida’s biggest hero, coming within less than eight minutes of his second consecutive shutout as the Panthers won their fourth straight game, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Thursday night at the BB&T Center.

Reimer, who made 29 saves to lead Florida (16-16-5), credited his teammates’ defense for the win.

“They are competing on loose pucks and rebounds, boxing out,” Reimer said. “They are doing the little details, dedicated to what they need to do to help me out. It gives me a boost.”

Reimer, who made his 10th straight start in place of injured starter Roberto Luongo, has allowed just seven goals in his past four appearances. And in a span that stretched over parts of three games, Reimer went 121:54 without allowing a goal.

However, Philadelphia scored twice in the final 7:32 on Thursday to make things interesting.

“It got a little crazy in the third,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “But our composure is a lot better than it was before.”

Jared McCann, Derek MacKenzie and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for the Panthers, and Nick Bjugstad, now playing on the top line, picked up two assists.

Huberdeau, who scored his fourth goal in the past three games, thinks he knows why he is suddenly hot.

“I guess I have to keep my family here (for more than just the holidays) — good food,” said Huberdeau, who has 13 goals this season, one away from Vincent Trocheck’s team lead.

The Flyers (15-14-8) have lost four of their past five games, and goalie Brian Elliott (24 saves) took the loss while making his 12th straight start.

Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play.

In fact, Florida squandered a 5-on-3 power play in the first few minutes of the game but salvaged the opening period on McCann’s fifth goal of the season, a wrist shot from the high slot.

The Panthers made it 2-0 with 9:19 expired in the second period on MacKenzie’s short-handed goal. Colton Sceviour pounced on a loose puck and tossed a cross-ice pass to MacKenzie, who scored on a one-timer.

It was the first goal of the season for MacKenzie, the veteran team captain who primarily plays a checking role on Florida’s fourth line.

Four minutes later, Huberdeau gave Florida a 3-0 lead on a shot that appeared to deflect off the stick of Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, landing in the net just above Elliott’s right shoulder.

“Just turn and fire from a bad angle like we’ve been talking about — putting pucks on the net,” Boughner said. “That’s what happens when you shoot the puck.”

Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton scored his sixth goal with just 7:32 left in the third period. The Flyers pulled their goalie late in the game, and the plan worked as Shayne Gostisbehere fired a shot from the left circle that Sean Couturier tipped home with 2:02 remaining

But the Flyers — doomed by their poor start coming out of the holiday break — failed to get the tying goal, and the Panthers kept their win streak alive.

“We didn’t win a lot of battles in the first and the second (periods),” Gostisbehere said. “They had time off too — no excuses.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had a similar outlook.

“We didn’t really start playing until halfway through the game,” Hakstol said. “We spotted our opponent three goals. It doesn’t matter what the reason is — it’s not something that can happen.”

NOTES: Panthers D Ian McCoshen (upper-body injury) missed his third straight game. ... Panthers RW Radim Vrbata (illness) missed Thursday’s game. ... Panthers C Jamie McGinn returned after missing two games due to an upper-body injury. ... Panthers C Vincent Trocheck played despite getting hit in the chest with a puck in Florida’s previous game. ... Flyers backup G Michael Neuvirth is out with a leg injury. ... Flyers C Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, has two goals and five assists in 28 games. ... Philadelphia scratched D Mark Alt and C Jori Lehtera. ... Florida closes its four-game homestand on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. ... Philadelphia closes its four-game road trip on Friday at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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