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5 Takeaways: Panthers, Montembeault Hold On to Beat Kings

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/16/20 Post Game Interviews

1/16/20 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Brian Boyle, defenseman Aaron Ekblad and goaltender Sam Montembeault.

  • 01:35 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - It's been an eventful few days for Sam Montembeault.

After being recalled on an emergency basis from AHL Springfield back on Jan. 12, the rookie goaltender was promptly sent back on the minors the following day. But, just two days after that, he found himself right back with the Florida Panthers after being recalled once again on Jan. 15.

Not done there, Montembeault, who was initially brought up to serve as the club's backup while Sergei Bobrovsky recovers from an upper-body injury, saw his wild ride continue when helped lead the Panthers to a crucial 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday at BB&T Center.

Coming into the game in relief of Chris Driedger, who left early in the first period after sustaining a lower-body injury, Montembeault stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced over 49:55 of ice time.

"I've been running around a lot," said Montembeault, who began the season as Florida's backup and improved to 4-2-1 with tonight's win. "I had three flights in three days - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. At least I had a chance to get a good practice yesterday. I skated this morning, too. I obviously wasn't expecting to play in this one, but it turned out well and we got a good win."

After the game, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said Bobrovsky is "close" to returning.

"We'll gauge it tomorrow," he said.

Starting the night off on the right foot - or skate? - for the third straight game, the Panthers took an early 1-0 lead when Evgenii Dadonov one-timed a centering pass from Jonathan Huberdeau straight past Jack Campbell on the power play to make it 1-0 at the 6:04 mark of the first period.

Following tonight's win, Florida improved to 20-2-2 when scoring first this season.

"Good scoring early," Quenneville said.

In the middle frame, the Panthers doubled their lead when Frank Vatrano flew up the ice, took a pass from Dominic Toninato and one-timed right it into the back of the net to make it 2-0 at 3:06.

Padding their lead even further in the third period, Mike Matheson and Brian Boyle found the back of the net at 4:55 and 7:06, respectively, to extend the advantage to a commanding 4-0.

Soon after, however, the Kings began to mount a comeback when they scored three goals in fairly quick succession. After Alex Iafallo made it 4-1 at 11:42, Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar netted power-play goals at 15:08 and 17:20, respectively, to trim Florida's lead down to a 4-3.

But, in the end, the Panthers held on to pick up their 10th win in their last 14 games.

"We feel pretty good," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "Up until the last three minutes there we were really buzzing and making things happen. I think we'll just forget about the end of that, learn from it and move on. It's great to have these wins and do it at home."

Hitting the road for the next three contests, Florida will stop in Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago before breaking for All-Star Weekend. Then, the grind towards the postseason really heats up. At 25-16-5, they are currently just one point out of a playoff spot with a pair of games in hand.

"These are important games for us," Quenneville said of the road ahead. "We've got to play, for the most part, like we did on the end of this homestand. Every game is going to be important and the value of those points is going to be huge for us."

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

1. TIC-TAC-TOE

Nothing like a little tic-tac-toe to open up the game, right?

With the Panthers sent to an early power play, Dadonov took a centering pass from Huberdeau and blasted a one-timer from the slot to break the ice and make it 1-0 at 6:04 of the first period.

Video: LAK@FLA: Dadonov buries feed from Huberdeau for PPG

"One of those wild goals that's special," Quenneville said of the passing that led to the score. "I think everybody touched it at least once. They moved it around crisply and it had a nice finish."

His team-leading 20th goal of the season, Dadonov has been burning opposing goaltenders at an impressive rate as of late. Over his last 12 games, the 30-year-old winger has tallied eight goals, while also chipping in four assists. That stretch has also pushed his point total up to 37.

On pace to blow past the career-high 28 goals he's potted in each of the last two seasons, a big reason for Dadonov's scoring surge has been his production on the power play. Doing most of his damage from the bumper spot in the low slot, he leads Florida with nine power-play goals.

2. BARKOV PASSES WEISS

Don't look now, but Barkov is also climbing the franchise's all-time scoring list.

Picking up the secondary assist on Dadonov's goal, the Panthers captain registered the 395th point of his career, breaking a tie with Stephen Weiss to claim sole possession of third place on the franchise's all-time list. Of those points, 149 have been goals, while 246 have been assists.

Barkov's milestone comes just one game after Huberdeau overtook Olli Jokinen for the top spot on that list. And, with another assist tonight, Huberdeau has already pushed the all-time record up to 421.

Ranking second on Florida in assists (36) and points (50), Barkov has produced at nearly a point-per game clip recently. In his last 22 games, the 24-year-old has seven goals and 14 assists.

3. TONINATO, VATRANO TEAM UP

What was more impressive on this goal, the pass or the finish?

Flying up the right side of the ice, Toninato corralled a loose puck after winning a footrace with a defender before sending a slick cross-ice pass to Vatrano, who then rocketed a one-timer from the high slot past Campbell's glove and into the net to make it 2-0 at 3:06 of the second period.

Video: LAK@FLA: Vatrano wires home one-timer on the rush

"I thought Toni's pass over to Frankie was a perfect play, and a nice goal as well," Quenneville said. "I thought he was cutting in there and was going to go in all alone on the goalie, and then all of the sudden he saw that hole and made a great pass, right on the stick. And then Frankie had a good opportunity right there and made a good shot. It was a big goal for us at that time."

Heating up as of late, Vatrano has now notched six points (four goals, two assists) over his last seven games. In that span, Toninato has also be chipping in quite a bit, registering four assists.

4. MATHESON NETS ANOTHER

The Panthers continue to get production out of their top-defensive pairing.

With only a few seconds left on the power play, Matheson took a pass from Aaron Ekblad and one-timed a slap shot past Campbell to extend Florida's lead to 3-0 at 4:55 of the third period.

Video: LAK@FLA: Matheson hammers a shot from the point

"I love playing with him," Ekblad said of Matheson. "He's really strong out there on the puck and in the corners. He's not afraid to make play or to make mistakes. That's huge. We give each other a lot of confidence. We're feeling good right now, so we're going to keep rolling with it."

In his last nine games, Matheson has looked very sharp while posting four goals and three assists. Overall, the 25-year-old ranks fourth among Panthers blueliners this season with 12 points (six goals six assists), while Ekblad occupies second with 25 (five goals, 20 assists).

5. BOYLE COMES UP BIG

What seemed like an insurance goal at the time ended up being the game-winner.

Jumping on a loose puck in the offensive zone, Boyle went to his forehand before flicking a wrist shot from the slot over Campbell's blocker to put the Panthers up 4-0 at 7:06 of the third period.

Video: LAK@FLA: Boyle wires home wrist shot from the slot

"I thought he did a lot of good things tonight," Quenneville said of Boyle. "Boyler is always in a good place positionally. (The fourth line) had a couple of big shifts where they had good long cycle shifts in the offensive zone, especially early in the game. They were noticeable tonight."

Not satisfied with simply scoring, Boyle also put his body on the line in the waning seconds of regulation to make sure the other team would not. After Los Angeles pulled their goaltender in favor of the extra attacker, he laid out to block a shot and run out the clock to secure the win.

"That stuff is contagious," Boyle said. "You see a lot of guys doing that for a long time. You have to do your part. I thought there was three seconds left, but there was a few more than I thought. I was happy it hit me."

Posting 14 points (six goals, eight assists) while playing a primarily bottom-six role this season, Boyle did a little bit of everything in tonight's win. In addition to his goal and block, the 35-year-old veteran also dished out three hits and went a solid 5-for-9 (56 percent) in the faceoff circle.

BONUS: STILL STREAKING

With an assist tonight, Mike Hoffman extended his point streak to seven games.

In that span, the 30-year-old winger has recorded nine points (five goals, four assists).

Last season, Hoffman set a Panthers record when he notched a point in 17 straight games.

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