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5 Takeaways: Hoffman's Hat Trick Leads Panthers to Win in Home Opener

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

10/5/19 Post Game Interviews

10/5/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Aleksander Barkov and Mike Hoffman and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

  • 01:15 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Both rats and hats were flying at BB&T Center on Saturday night.

Lighting the lamp three times for the second hat trick of his career, Mike Hoffman helped lead the Florida Panthers to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Home Opener.

"We wanted to come out and have a strong presence on home ice," Hoffman said. "The fans were into the game right from the start. It was a fun building to play in, and we wanted to put on a good performance for them. Throughout the whole lineup, everyone was there ready to go."

After a scoreless first period, Hoffman netted a pair of power play goals a mere 1:27 apart to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead at 11:05 of the middle frame. At 12:32, Noel Acciari threw some more gasoline on the fire when he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from the doorstep to make it 3-0.

Vasilevskiy finished the game with 24 saves on 28 shots.

"Great momentum with Hoff on a roll there," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said.

At 16:23 of the second period, Tampa Bay finally got on the board on a goal from Gemel Smith.

But just 17 seconds into the third period, Hoffman completed his hat trick when he tipped a shot from Aaron Ekblad past Vasilevskiy to put the Panthers up 4-1. Later, Steven Stamkos and Mathieu Joseph each scored at 6:40 and 15:41, respectively, to cut the Lightning's deficit to 4-3.

In the end, however, Sergei Bobrovsky held down the fort.

As the final seconds of regulation ticked off the clock, Bobrovsky made his 32nd and final save of the night when he weathered a dogpile of players crashing his crease to preserve the 4-3 final.

"I'm just trying to find the puck and stop the puck," Bobrovsky said of the game's chaotic conclusion. "I didn't think much. It's all on instinct. I know we all know the score. The points are so important. We have to get it done. I thought guys did a great job to get it done."

With the win, both Bobrovsky and Quenneville picked up their first wins with the Panthers.

"Obviously it was a great win," said Quenneville, who was hired by the team in April after leading Chicago to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. "There was a lot of enthusiasm on the bench the whole game, a lot of talking on the ice, doing whatever it took to get the job done."

Splitting their heated two-game series with Tampa Bay, Florida now sits at 1-1-0 on the season.

"It feels great right now," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "I feel like this is something special. I think everybody played a good game today."

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

1. HOFF'S THE MAN

What's more fun than watching Hoffman do his thing on the power play?

With the game scoreless near the midway point of the second period, the 29-year-old sniper struck twice on the man advantage within a span of 1:27. The first goal, which was set up by a beautiful feed from Jonathan Huberdeau through traffic, broke the ice and made it 1-0 at 9:39.

Video: TBL@FLA: Hoffman wires home wrister for PPG

Sent back to the power play less than a minute later after a high-sticking penalty from Anthony Cirelli, Hoffman was it again, burying another nice feed from Huberdeau to make it 2-0 at 11:05.

"You lick your chops when you get those opportunities," Hoffman said. "Obviously there's some good players on our power play that can find me in open ice. I try and get open as much as I can."

Despite already having two goals in his back pocket, Hoffman's night was far from over.

2. HATS FOR HOFFMAN

The hats were hurdling toward the ice less than a minute into the third period.

After lighting the lamp twice in the second, Hoffman completed his hat trick just 17 seconds after the puck had dropped in the final frame. Set up in the slot, he got just enough of Ekblad's long shot to re-direct the puck and send it past Vasilevskiy into the net to extend Florida's lead to 4-1.

Hoffman's second hat trick of his career, the first came back on Nov. 30, 2016.

Video: TBL@FLA: Hoffman redirects puck to complete hat trick

"Tonight everything seemed to be working," Hoffman said. "It's a fun game to play when things are going your way."

With one goal in Thursday's opener, Hoffman now leads the Panthers with four goals on the season. Acquired in a trade with San Jose last summer, he posted a team-leading 36 goals in 2018-17, including 17 on the power play, which placed him in a tie for fourth-most in the NHL.

"He's got a unique ability to get it away and get it off," Quenneville said of Hoffman's shot.

3. HUBERDEAU'S HELPERS

Huberdeau was dishing the puck like a demon tonight.

Picking up the primary assist on both of Hoffman's power-play goals, the 26-year-old winger played a key role in sparking Florida's scoring surge in the second period. Both passes were incredibly impressive, but the second one might have been slightly more difficult than the first.

With Alex Killorn draped over his back, Huberdeau took a pass from Barkov and without any hesitation slapped it through the slot - between a pair of defenders, mind you - right onto the stick of Hoffman, who buried a shot from the right circle to double the lead to 2-0 at 11:05.

Video: TBL@FLA: Hoffman notches second PPG of the period

Behind Hoffman's goals, the Panthers finished the game 2-for-3 on the power play.

"It was nice to get our power play going," Hoffman said. "Obviously last game wasn't up to our standard. Huberdeau made some great passes over to me. It's up to myself to put those in the net."

Of course, highlight-reel helpers are nothing new for Huberdeau.

Setting a new career-high with 92 points last season, he led the Panthers and set a new franchise single-season record with 62 assists - nine more than the team's previous record.

4. ACCIARI DOES IT ALL

Acciari showed off all elements of his game on this scoring play.

After finishing a check on Kevin Shattenkirk along the boards, the 27-year-old center booked it right for the crease, where Colton Sceviour found him with a pin-point pass. Left all alone with Vasilevskiy, he patiently outwaited the league's reigning Vezina Trophy winner before slipping a backhand shot under his blocker to put the Panthers ahead 3-0 at 12:32 of the second period. 

Video: TBL@FLA: Acciari pots goal at the doorstep

"It was a huge goal," Quenneville said. "He gives us a lot of different elements to our team game, as far as playing the system to a T. He's a hard worker who's physical. The patience on that play was something that was a bonus plan. He played a lot of key minutes for us tonight."

Joining the Panthers on a three-year deal this summer, Acciari had a career-high 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his final season with Boston in 2018-19. Additionally, his 221 hits led the Bruins and ranked 12th in the NHL overall. Tonight against Tampa Bay, he racked up five hits.

"It was fun," Barkov said of watching Acciari and the rest of the team's fourth line. "You see those guys battling so hard and getting goals for us. We're a four-line team. It doesn't matter who's going to score, everybody needs to play the same type of game."

5. BOB ROBS BOLTS

Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves tonight.

More than a few of them sent jaws to the floor.

"A couple of those tonight were spectacular," Quenneville said. "Those were huge saves for us."

Bobrovsky's most-impressive save of the night came near the midway point of the third period when the Panthers were on the penalty kill and clinging to a 4-2 lead. After getting pulled to the left, he somehow flew back across the crease in time to rob Nikita Kucherov with a stunning glove save.

Video: TBL@FLA: Bobrovsky's gorgeous glove save on Kucherov

"Those are the reasons why we won this hockey game," Hoffman said of Bobrovsky's big saves. "Without those saves, they'd probably have seven or eight [goals]. He kept us in it and gave everyone life on the bench. Then we went out there and capitalized on a few of our chances."

Joining the Panthers on a seven-year contract this summer, Bobrovsky registered a 37-24-1 record behind a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and a league-best nine shutouts to help Columbus reach the playoffs as a wild card during the 2018-19 campaign.

Looking to now backstop Florida to the playoffs this season, he was happy to start with win No. 1.

"It's great, especially in the Home Opener," Bobrovsky said. "It's a huge win against a really good team. I thought everybody contributed. It's a huge win for us and a huge win for our fans."

BONUS: ROCKING THE ARENA

Speaking of fans, the support from The Territory didn't go unnoticed tonight. Here's what a few Panthers had to say about the atmosphere in the building after the game.

Barkov: "The crowd got us going."

Bobrovsky: "I thought the fans were unbelievable tonight."

Hoffman: "It was a fun building to play in."

Quenneville: "Great crowd. Great energy in the building."

Let's keep the arena rocking all season long!

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