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5 Takeaways: Panthers Erase Another 4-Goal Deficit, Beat Ducks in OT

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/21/19 Post Game Interviews

11/21/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Brett Connolly and Dominic Toninato and defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

  • 01:40 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The first time it happened, Joel Quenneville called it "improbable."

The second time?

"More than improbable," the Florida Panthers coach said.

Just nine days after shocking the NHL with their historic win comeback in Boston, Aaron Ekblad netted the game-winning goal 22 seconds into overtime to help the Panthers erase another 4-0 deficit in an exhilarating 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks at BB&T Center on Thursday night.

With the win, the Panthers, who improved their record to an impressive 12-5-5, became just the second team in NHL history to win two games when trailing by four goals in the same season.

"Always great to win," Quenneville said. "This wasn't textbook how we play. I think you get excited when you play the right way and you deserve wins. Tonight, we'll take it. But we've got to be better. The Boston [victory] was highly improbable, and this one was the same way."

Max Jones broke the ice for the Ducks in the first period, whacking a loose puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to put the Panthers in a 1-0 hole at 17:15. Then, in the second period, Nick Ritchie doubled that lead when he converted on a quick one-timer to put Anaheim ahead 2-0 at 7:17.

Later in the middle frame, Rickard Rakell made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 15:50. Less than three minutes after that, Ondrej Kase capitalized on a turnover to push the lead to 4-0 at 18:39.

At 18:53, Brett Connolly got one back for the Panthers, beating John Gibson with a wrist shot from the high slot to cut the deficit to 4-1. Twenty-seven seconds later, the veteran winger found the back of the net again from a similar spot to make it 4-2 with 40 seconds left in the second.

"Huge," Quenneville said of Connolly's two timely goals. "The first one, all of the sudden it's 4-1 and you think you've got a sniff. Then all of the sudden you get the next one. We've had some amazing comebacks, which I think got everyone excited after two [periods]."

In the third period, Ekblad scored his first of two goals, beating Gibson with a rocket from just below the blue line to cut the deficit to 4-3 at 11:55. With time ticking down in regulation, newly-recalled Dominic Toninato scored from the doorstep to make it 4-4 at 15:37 and force overtime.

Of Bobrovsky's 28 saves, 10 came in the third period.

"We need him to make some key saves because we're opening it up and taking some chances," Quenneville said of Bobrovsky, who has won each of his last games to improve to 9-4-4. "You hope not, but there's going to be some odd-man situations against you… They did have some quality, all-alone looks, and he made some great, great saves."

After Aleksander Barkov won the opening faceoff in the extra frame, Ekblad skated down the right side of the ice before sending a shot over Gibson's glove for the game-winner at 0:22.

Video: ANA@FLA: Ekblad roofs shot to complete rally in OT

"It's crazy," said Ekblad, who notched the first multi-goal game of his career. "A great team effort. Obviously we got together between the second and third [periods] and had some words in here. But really it's all belief from every guy. You're sitting on the bench, goals are going in, but nobody's freaking out. Everybody's calm, cool and collected. We're confident that we can come back in any situation. We obviously don't want to be in that situation often, but it's a huge win."

The Panthers have now won each of their last three games and five of their last six overall.

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

1. STARTING THE FIRE

Just moments after falling into a 4-0 hole, Connolly gave the Panthers a much-needed spark.

After intercepting a puck in the neutral zone, Frank Vatrano carried it across the blue line before sending a pinpoint pass to Connolly, who, despite being surrounded by three Ducks defenders, managed to bury a shot from the high slot to cut the deficit to 4-1 at 18:53 of the second period.

Video: ANA@FLA: Connolly cuts the deficit in 2nd period

"We didn't have anything going," Connolly said. "I had a terrible first two periods. You get a good chance and you score, and then you get a lucky one and it kind of changes the game for yourself and your team. It was good to see the first [goal] go in."

After tonight, Connolly's point streak now stands at four games (four goals, two assists).

"It's a great team win," he said. "Obviously everyone's excited. The energy's great."

2. TWICE AS NICE

It took less than a minute for Connolly to capture a share of the team's goal-scoring lead.

A mere 27 seconds after his first goal, the veteran winger was back at it again, scoring on a shot from just beyond the circles to cut Anaheim's lead down to 4-2 at 19:20 of the second period.

Video: ANA@FLA: Connolly scores second of the night

"That wasn't one of the prettiest goals I've ever scored, but guys kept working," Connolly said. "We've been doing it all year. We just haven't quit on any games. It's obviously a huge positive when your group has that. You've got to find ways to win in this league."

Joining Florida a four-year deal this summer, Connolly has provided plenty of secondary scoring in the early goings of his first season with the team. In 22 games, the 27-year-old has tallied 17 points and is tied with Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov for the team-lead in goals (10).

"Scoring at the end of the second period certainly gave us a lot of life," Quenneville said.

3. EKBLAD TO THE BONE

This is when things started to get really interesting.

With the Panthers trailing 4-2, Ekblad corralled a pass, skated a up a few inches from the blue line and then buried a booming slap shot to trim the deficit to 4-3 at 11:55 of the third period.

Video: ANA@FLA: Ekblad blisters home slapper to trim deficit

"We just catch a spark and we run with it," Ekblad said.

With two team-high three points tonight, Ekblad has now posted 11 points (four goals, seven assists) over his last 16 games. Overall, the 23-year-old defenseman has notched 13 points (four goals, nine assists) this season, while also leading the team in average ice time (24:09).

"We've had a few good comebacks over the years, but a team this good doing it in consecutive weeks, it's unheard of," Ekblad said.

4. IT'S TONI TIME

Toninato is certainly making the most out of his time with the Panthers.

Just a few days after being recalled from AHL Springfield for a second time this season, the 25-year-old center scored likely the biggest goal of his young NHL career, outmuscling a defender in the crease before banging home a goal to tie the game 4-4 with 4:23 remaining in regulation.

Video: ANA@FLA: Toninato ties the game in 3rd period

"It felt awesome," said Toninato, who was recalled on Nov. 18 after scoring one goal in three games during his first stint with Florida earlier in the month. "Obviously we didn't come out with our best start and fell behind there, but we've got a special group and fought back again."

Despite having only 44 games of NHL experience under his belt, Toninato said the fact that Quenneville deployed him in such an important situation tonight boosted his confidence a lot.

"I think he's got a little offense to his game," Quenneville said of Toninato, who was acquired in a trade with Colorado in June. "We use him more in a defensive-type of role, but he's got some offense, some positional awareness. Offensively, he's got a nose for the net. He got rewarded."

In addition to his goal, Toninato also led the team with five hits and went 3-for-4 in the faceoff circle.

5. UP AND BACK

The Panthers will now get brief respite from their long stretch of games at home.

After wrapping up a four-game homestand tonight, they'll now pack their packs and head up to Raleigh for a meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Saturday. Following that game, though, they'll head right back down to Sunrise to host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

Overall, the team will play 11 of its next 12 games at BB&T Center, including a franchise-record nine-game homestand that'll run from Nov. 30 through Dec. 20.

"We've been scraping points all season here," Connolly said. "Guys have been working extremely hard and [Quenneville] has been on us all year to be consistent with our work ethic and our habits. It's good to obviously get on roll.

"We've just been grinding so much to get points. It feels like we just find a way every night. On a three-game win streak, we've got a tough back-to-back here starting in Carolina. They're a really good team and it's a tough place to play… We've just got to keep pushing." Grab your tickets for the upcoming homestand HERE.

BONUS: BARKOV CLIMBING THE CHARTS

With an assist tonight, Barkov registered the 232nd helper of his career, which moved him past fellow Finnish forward Olli Jokinen (229) for the third-most assists in franchise history.

Tweet from @FlaPanthersPR: With his 232nd NHL assist tonight vs. ANA, Aleksander Barkov surpassed Olli Jokinen (231) for the third-most assists in #FlaPanthers franchise history. pic.twitter.com/94s9CcAqbx

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