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game recap

Panthers defeat Ducks, move up in Atlantic race

Tie for third in division, Saarela scores first NHL goal

by Dan Arritt / Independent Correspondent

Saarela's first NHL goal

FLA@ANA: Saarela buries carom for first NHL goal

Aleksi Saarela fires a carom off the end boards past John Gibson for his first career NHL goal

  • 00:35 •

ANAHEIM -- Aleksi Saarela scored his first NHL goal for the Florida Panthers in a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves for the Panthers (32-22-6), who have won two in a row to open a five-game road trip and tied the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.

"It's big game for us," Bobrovsky said. "As a team, we gave a good 60-minute effort. We got timely goals, guys sacrificing in the [defensive] zone. It was solid and it was fun too. Winning is fun. We just have to continue to work for each other."


[WATCH: All Panthers vs. Ducks highlights]


Max Jones scored, and John Gibson made 28 saves for the Ducks (24-29-7), who opened a six-game homestand with their third straight loss here.

After an offsides challenge nullified a goal by Florida forward Mike Hoffman at 13:10, the Ducks took a 1-0 lead at 16:04 of the first period.

Adam Henrique lifted a pass out of the defensive zone to Rickard Rakell coming across the Florida blue line. Rakell tried to catch the puck, but it glanced off his glove, causing him and Panthers defensemen Keith Yandle and Anton Stralman to overskate the puck.

Jones came in behind the play and took a wrist shot from just above the right circle. With Rakell providing a screen, the puck went in off Bobrovsky's left shoulder.

"The puck was just there for me," Jones said. "Great screen, great flip-out by [Henrique]. Everything aligned there."

Video: FLA@ANA: Jones rips home opening goal

The Panthers tied it 1-1 with five seconds left in the period. Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm tried to send the puck through the neutral zone, but Jonathan Huberdeau intercepted it with a backhand. Huberdeau brought the puck down the right side before sliding a pass to Aleksander Barkov on his left for the redirection.

"There's a huge difference of playing a team like that with a lot of offense and being up 1-0 after that first period," Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. "To give up that lead going into the intermission was deflating, to say the least."

Trocheck made it 2-1 at 10:50 of the second period. Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman took a shot from inside the face-off circle that went wide on the short side. The puck hit the end boards, popped in the air, and Trocheck batted it into the net.

Video: FLA@ANA: Trocheck knocks puck out of air for goal

Florida took advantage of another bounce off the end boards on its next goal. Aaron Ekblad shot wide from the right point and the puck came to Saarela in the left circle. His one-timer from a sharp angle gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead at 14:26 of the second period.

The 23-year-old forward, who was playing his fourth NHL game, was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

"I was lucky to get that bounce off the wall," Saarela said. "I had an empty-netter, so it was easy."

Mackenzie Weegar scored into an empty net with 2:09 left in the third period to make it 4-1.

"I thought our third period with the lead, we played the way we want to play going forward," Florida coach Joel Quenneville said. "All lines were contributing. It's a good start to the trip."


They said it

"It's the game, you have to enjoy being here. It's the NHL, it's the best league in the world. You play against the best players. You dream about that when you're a kid. You have to take advantage of it and have fun." -- Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

"There were some things we did well, but we shot ourselves in the foot again on a couple of mistakes. Bad change on the first goal, and then on the third one, we iced the puck, we're hemmed up in our zone and it's in our net. If you're not going to be able to score, then we certainly have to keep them out. We can't afford those kinds of mistakes." -- Ducks coach Dallas Eakins


Need to know

Bobrovsky has a .939 save percentage in five road games since Feb. 3. ... Ekblad has five assists in a season-high four-game point streak. ... Huberdeau has two goals and two assists in a four-game point streak. ... Saarela was recalled because defenseman Mike Matheson returned to Florida with an illness. ... Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was scratched because of a lower-body injury.


What's next

Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Ducks: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Friday (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, ALT2, NHL.TV)

Video: Bobrovsky makes 35 saves, Panthers defeat Ducks

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