"I'm so proud of that kid," said Panthers center Vincent Trocheck, who scored the winner in the shootout. "For such a young kid to show so much poise, so much maturity during that game in a loud building, a tough place to play, he played a phenomenal game. In the shootout he was outstanding. We've seen it in practice. He's great in shootouts, and tonight was no different."
Video: FLA@NSH: Trocheck beats Rinne in SO with backhander
Losing captain Aleksander Barkov to an upper-body injury early in the first period, the Panthers came together and rallied to produce one of their best efforts of the year against the Predators.
Following a scoreless first period, Denis Malgin broke the ice and put Florida up 1-0 with a goal on the power play at 13:33 of the second period. Soon after, Brett Connolly doubled the lead with his fourth goal in three games, making it 2-0 with just 51 seconds remaining in the period.
"It's not easy seeing your best player go down really early in a game," Connolly said. "We depend on him to play in all three zones. Like I said, he's our best player. All around, guys stepped up, played a lot of minutes and we found a way to win. Hopefully he's OK."
Nashville, which entered the night with a league-best 17 goals in the third period, came back to tie the game in the final frame and force overtime on goals from Roman Josi and Kyle Turris at 9:07 and 13:30, respectively. After a scoreless extra frame, the game then went to a shootout.
In the skills competition, Montembeault stopped all three of Nashville's shooters - including a spectacular leg save on Ryan Johansen - while Trocheck scored the lone goal for the 3-2 win.
"We battled all game long," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "You lose Barky early in the game and we have extra defenseman playing as a forward, so we're down in numbers in that area. But I thought the guys worked hard and played smart. We had some stretches we were in our end a lot, but I still thought the [shot] quality was down, and Monty was strong in the net."
With the win, Florida extended its point streak to five games and sit at 3-2-3 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Nashville…
1. BARKOV LEAVES EARLY
Quenneville had no update on Barkov's status following tonight's win.
Florida's captain exited tonight's game after just taking the ice for 1:55. Following his third shift in the first period, he skated to the bench in discomfort, went down the tunnel and did not return.
Entering tonight's matchup, Barkov had posted a team-leading six assists.
"I think we showed tonight that we have a little bit of a deeper team than we've had in the past," said Trocheck, who led Florida's forwards with 23:06 of ice time. "Guys stepped up in situations that they're not used to playing in. We played a great defensive game for the most part."
A bonafide superstar, Barkov led the Panthers in scoring with a franchise-record 96 points last season, including a career-high 35 goals. One of the league's top centers, he also finished fifth in voting for the Selke Trophy voting and won his first Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2018-19.
2. MALGIN'S GOT POWER
With Barkov sidelined, Florida's other forwards picked up the slack.
Sent to the power play in a scoreless game, Trocheck found Malgin with a smooth tape-to-tape pass through traffic. All alone with the puck on his stick in the left circle, he wired a wicked wrist shot past Rinne and into the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 13:33 of the second period.
"I was just getting open, and he made a great pass," Malgin said of the goal. "All I had to do was shoot it."
Video: FLA@NSH: Malgin wires home wrister for opening PPG
In the midst of his fourth season with the Panthers, Malgin has now tallied two goals and two assists through six games. A fourth-round pick (102nd overall) back in the 2015 NHL Draft, he recorded seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 50 games during the 2018-19 campaign.
"I like how he comes through the middle. He's got some speed, and then all of the sudden he goes through coverage, he's in the zone and then the options open up for him," Quenneville said of Malgin. "He sees the play well. I think he's got some real speed with the puck."
3. BRETT'S BEASTING
Connolly continues to crush it in the goal-scoring department.
Finding the back of the net for the third straight game, he extended Florida's lead to 2-0 with 51 seconds remaining in the second period when buried a long wrist shot from near the blue line. On the goal, Rinne was clearly deterred by an excellent screen from Colton Sceviour.
Video: FLA@NSH: Connolly threads a shot through traffic
"I feel good," Connolly said. "Just playing with confidence, not thinking. I know I'm going to be thrown out there the next shift, playing with two good players. We've been getting better and better each game. It's a lot of fun. I'm just hoping to contribute every night."
Joining the Panthers on a four-year deal this summer, Connolly has been excellent in the early going of this season, cracking the scoresheet in six of eight games while racking up four goals and three assists. In 2018-19, he posted a career-best 22 goals and 46 points with Washington.
"We didn't play our best throughout some of the periods of the game, but we stuck with it," Connolly said. "We knew we were going to have to grind it out tonight, and we did. We stuck with it and we got the two points. We need points right now. We need to get some wins."
4. MONTY ON THE MONEY
Quenneville said Montembeault "was bigger" with the game on the line tonight.
After stopping 2-of-3 shooters in a shootout loss on Long Island last week, the rookie netminder was sharp again tonight, stopping all three Nashville shooters to earn his first win of the season.
Video: FLA@NSH: Montembeault stones Turris to win shootout
"I liked his composure," Quenneville said. "I thought he was very calm in the net. I thought, with the puck as well, he likes to make direct plays with it. I thought his rebound control was solid. I thought he followed the puck extremely well. They've got some big shooters at the top there, a lot of screened looks, and he found a way to fight through that."
A third-round pick (77th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Montembeault has been excellent in the three appearances he's made this season, going 1-0-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Making his NHL debut late last season, he went 4-3-2 over 11 contests.
"He's worked so hard this year," Connolly said. "He had a great first two periods. A couple unlucky goals [in the third], but he played well and kept us in the game early when new needed him… There was a lot of Grade-A chances on their end, and he was there to bail us out."
Montembeault's big night was the highlight of a strong overall defensive effort. In addition to limiting the Predators to under 10 shots in each period, Florida's skaters also blocked 22 shots.
"I think we really deserved this win," Montembeault said.
5. BIG NIGHT FOR NOEL
Noel Acciari might have been the unsung hero of tonight's win.
In Barkov's absence, 27-year-old center, who usually mans the fourth line, played all over the place during the win, finishing with 21:53 of ice time - his most-ever in a regular-season game.
A veteran of five seasons in the NHL, the only other time Acciari ever surpassed the 20-minute plateau previously in his career was when he skated 28:13 while playing for the Boston Bruins in a 3-2 double overtime win over the Ottawa Senators back in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And while all of his minutes were big, a short sequence in overtime summed up his night.
With the Panthers on a 4-on-3 penalty kill for 34 seconds in the extra frame, Acciari took the ice with Mike Matheson and Anton Stralman. Keeping the Predators from getting any good looks on net, the trio helped get the game to the shootout, with Acciari clearing the puck to run out the clock.
Acciari also led the Panthers with a game-high five blocked shots.
BONUS: PIT STOP WITH THE PENS
This wild opening month is showing no signs of slowing down.
After tonight's win in Nashville, the Panthers will now fly back to Sunrise to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at BB&T Center before hitting the road again for a four-game trek through the Western Conference, with stops in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado.
The Penguins are off to a 6-3-0 start to the season and currently sit in first place Metropolitan Division. On Saturday, they saw their five-game winning streak snapped in a 3-0 loss to Vegas.
If you want to catch the Cats in person, you can find tickets HERE.