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Five Panthers score in win against Devils

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Florida Panthers won by four goals Thursday because of their puck possession after winning by the same margin on Tuesday because of some puck luck.

"That's kind of the way you have to do it in this league," said Panthers forward Reilly Smith, who was one of five goal-scorers in Florida's 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. "Every night is not going to be pretty."

The Panthers looked pretty darn good against the Devils after defeating the New York Islanders 5-1 on Tuesday despite getting outshot 34-16.

Five players had multipoint games, including three points from Brandon Pirri, and goalie Al Montoya made 15 saves on 16 shots, the fewest allowed by the Panthers this season.

"I really wasn't sucking wind tonight," Montoya said. "A couple chances here and there, but other than that, it was a solid, predictable game by us. We kept the puck in their end, we made them work."

Pirri had a goal and two assists. Jussi Jokinen, Dmitry Kulikov, Smith and Logan Shaw also scored; Jokinen and Shaw each had an assist. Vincent Trocheck and Corban Knight each had two assists.

Smith has a goal in three straight games and four in his past five. Pirri has at least a point in five straight games, including two goals. Jokinen has scored two points in consecutive games. Kulikov's goal was his first in 42 games, dating to March 5.

The Panthers (16-12-4) have won two in a row, three of their past four and seven of their past nine on the road. They finish their four-game road trip at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

"Just working hard, the whole team," Pirri said. "All four lines, we're rolling them. [Coach Gerard Gallant] gives everyone a shot, and it's a lot of fun right now because everyone is playing and enjoying themselves, and we're winning."

As good as Florida was, New Jersey coach John Hynes was just as dissatisfied with the work ethic he saw from the Devils two nights after they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 at First Niagara Center.

"It needs to be a lot better than it was tonight," Hynes said.

The Devils (16-12-4) have for the most part been better than expected this season, but they've run into an issue of late. They haven't won two games in a row since Nov. 12 and 14. It's led to a 6-6-3 record since Nov. 14; they were 10-6-1 in their first 17 games.

"When you go through the year, you have certain situations and things that come up," Hynes said. "For us, this is something that's come up, so we've gotta be able to figure it out. It happens to be that we haven't played real well after we've had some good wins and felt really good about our game. So let's address it, let's figure it out, and let's get better. It has not been an issue all year long; it's an issue recently, so let's try to fix it."

The Panthers wouldn't let them fix it because they refused to give up the puck for most of the game. Florida had 26 shots on goal and 33 total shot attempts, but it controlled the tempo and the puck with a strong cycle game below the goal line that opened the points and shooting lanes.

Kulikov scored off of a cycle created by Florida's top line of Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers had the puck in the offensive zone for 61 seconds before Kulikov scored on a snap shot from the right circle.

Smith scored his goal from the slot off of a sustained 21-second possession following an offensive-zone faceoff win.

"We joke around about Corsi (shot-attempts percentage), and that's just puck possession, but we did a great job cycling and we had the puck it felt like the whole night," Pirri said. "It's tough for them to generate anything when we're cycling and wearing them down."

Pirri scored off a blocked shot during a 3-on-2 rush. Jokinen's power-play goal came on a mini-breakaway. Shaw scored into the empty net.

The Devils lone goal came on a deflection by Sergey Kalinin during a power play at 7:28 of the third period.

New Jersey had two power-play chances in the first period but managed only one shot on goal.

"We didn't play offensively the way we needed to play," Hynes said. "We had too many pucks turned over in the neutral zone, didn't get to the offensive zone enough. If you just look at all aspects offensively, power play, 5-on-5, our puck management when we had opportunities, we didn't play a hard enough game."


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