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5 Takeaways: Hoffman Has 3 Points as Panthers Top Red Wings

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/28/19 Post Game Interviews

12/28/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Mike Hoffman, defenseman Anton Stralman and goaltender Chris Driedger.

  • 01:15 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - It wasn't how they drew it up, but they'll take it.

After falling into an early 3-1 hole, the Florida Panthers scored four straight goals to come from behind and secure a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at BB&T Center on Saturday night.

Improving to 19-13-5 on the season, the Panthers have won four of their last five games.

"I thought we started off pretty good and then let our foot off the gas a little bit," said Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, who led the team with three points in the win. "We had too many mistakes that caused goals. There was a little adversity in the game, especially coming off a four-day break. I liked the way we battled back and were able to slowly chip away."

Like Hoffman said, the Panthers got the start they wanted.

Earning a power play after Detroit was whistled for an interference penalty just a few minutes after puck drop, Evgenii Dadonov buried a one-timer from the slot to put Florida up 1-0 at 2:46 the first period.

But, after that, the Red Wings struck back with two goals of their own in quick succession. After Darren Helm tied the game 1-1 with a breakaway goal at 9:29, Dylan Larkin beat Chris Driedger from right outside of the blue paint at 10:07 to give Detroit at 2-1 lead heading into the second.

Sent to the power play early in the middle frame, Florida surrendered its first shorthanded goal of the season when Frans Nielsen put the Red Wings ahead 3-1 just 46 seconds into the period.

"With everyone coming back [from the holiday break], there's been some high-scoring games," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "Whether it's sharpness or [getting up to] speed or up to pace, maybe we were off tonight. But I liked our second period. It was a good response."

Sparking the comeback, Brett Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a quick wrist shot on the man advantage less than a minute after Nielsen's goal to cut the Panthers deficit down to 3-2 at 1:58.

Then, the floodgates opened.

Finding twine just nine seconds apart, Mike Hoffman cashed in on a rebound to tie the game 3-3 at 6:39 before Dominic Toninato forced a turnover and scored to put Florida on top 4-3 at 6:48.

With 6:36 left in regulation, Anton Stralman scored what proved to be the game-winner when he beat Howard with a laser from the center of the right circle to increase the lead to 5-3.

At 15:49, Luke Glendening cut Detroit's deficit to 5-4, but then they were unable to beat Driedger after that.

Improving to 4-1-0 on the season, Driedger made 35 saves; Howard stopped 25 of 30 shots.

"We came in after the first, and guys knew that wasn't good enough," Driedger said. "Leaders kind of took control, and obviously it paid off. The guys did a fantastic job of bouncing back."

Moving back into a playoff spot with tonight's win, the Panthers won't have much time to rest as they will host the Montreal Canadiens in a very critical Atlantic Division battle on Sunday night.

"We wanted to try and ride some momentum into tomorrow night," Hoffman said of the back-to-back set. "I thought the guys did a good job kind of shutting it down and playing the way we wanted to in the third period. Hopefully we can translate that to the way we start tomorrow."

Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Sunrise…

1. DADONOV ON DUTY

Dadonov didn't need a lot of space to net tonight's opening goal.

With the Panthers awarded an early power play, Jonathan Huberdeau sent a pass to Dadonov, who despite being surrounded by four defenders, managed to rip a one-timer from the slot that flew straight over Howard's glove and into the net make it 1-0 just 2:46 after the puck dropped.

Video: DET@FLA: Dadonov buries one-timer for opening PPG

Tied for second on the team with 14 goals, Dadonov is currently on pace to surpass the career-high 28 that he's scored each of the last two seasons. Also ranking tied for fourth on Florida in points (27), the 30-year-old winger has tallied four goals and three assists in his last 12 games.

2. SPARKING THE COMEBACK

With one flick of the wrist, Connolly changed the complexion of tonight's game.

A little over a minute after the Red Wings went up 3-1 with a shorthanded goal, Connolly got it right back for the Panthers, taking a pass from Aleksander Barkov and wiring home a wrist shot through traffic on the power play to cut Florida's deficit down to 3-2 at 1:58 of the second period.

Video: DET@FLA: Connolly buries PPG from the high slot

"The power play looked like it wasn't a very good one when we gave up the shorty, and then all of the sudden we get ourselves right back in the mix," Quenneville said. "It was a big goal."

One of the hidden gems of this summer's free agent class, Connolly leads the Panthers with 15 goals and is on pace to blow past the career-high 22 he scored last season with Washington. In addition to his nose for the net, the 27-year-old winger also sits sixth on the team with 27 points.

"Huge," Driedger said of the goal. "They have momentum, so when you kill it like that it was a massive goal for us. It's obviously a big one when you look at the score at the end of the game."

Over his last 18 games, Connolly has recorded nine goals and three assists.

3. HAMMERING IT HOME

After Connolly started the fire, Hoffman fanned the flames.

Jumping on a rebound after Brian Boyle nearly converted on a between-the-legs goal in front of the net, Hoffman whacked in the loose puck to make it a 3-3 game at 6:39 of the second period.

Video: DET@FLA: Hoffman cleans up the rebound in front

"I thought he was going to score, to be honest," Hoffman said of Boyle's move. "He made a nice move, but the goalie made the save. I was just trying to clean up the garbage if there was some."

Leading the Panthers with three points (one goal, two assists) in the win, Hoffman was named the game's first star. Ranking fourth on the team with 13 goals, the 30-year-old winger has notched 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) and 62 shots over his last 21 games played.

4. RAPID FIRE

This was just a great individual effort.

Just nine seconds after Hoffman tied the game, Toninato forced a turnover in the offensive zone before sending a shot past Howard to give the Panthers a 4-3 lead at 6:48 of the second period.

Video: DET@FLA: Toninato capitalizes off of a turnover

"It was a huge shift," Toninato told FOX Sports Florida's Katie Gaus during the second intermission. "Coming off a goal, you always want to get it back in the offensive zone and keep that momentum going. We got it deep, went to work and were fortunate enough to get one."

In his first season with the Panthers, Toninato has proven to be quite a nice find. Acquired in a trade with Colorado in June, the 25-year-old forward has registered four goals and one assist in 19 games this season. In addition to his points, he's also produced 24 hits and 10 blocks.

"That was definitely a big momentum swing for us, getting those goals so quick," Stralman said.

5. THE INSURANCE GOAL

They don't call them "insurance goals" for nothing.

With the teams playing at 4-on-4 and the Panthers clinging onto a 4-3 lead as the minutes slowly ticked away in the third period, Stralman took a pass from Hoffman and connected on a wrist shot from the center of the right circle to make it 5-3 at 13:24. 

Video: DET@FLA: Stralman snipes a wrist shot from the circle

"With my shot, I don't pass those up," Stralman grinned. "It was just a nice play all around. It was a bit of a rush. [Barkov] holding onto it, finding [Hoffman], and then I just had some space and fired it."

Taking on an even greater responsibility in the absence of injured blueliners Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar, Stralman led the Panthers with 23:55 of ice time tonight. In his first season with Florida, the 33-year-old veteran has four goals, eight assists and a team-high 57 blocks.

"[Stralman's] goal gave us some breathing room," Quenneville said. "We needed it in the end."

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