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5 Takeaways: Panthers Ride Big 2nd Period to Win Over Senators

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Post Game Interviews 1/2/20

Post Game Interviews 1/2/20

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Evgenii Dadonov and defenseman Riley Stillman.

  • 01:00 •

Joel Quenneville called it likely the best second period he's seen all season.

Trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes, the Florida Panthers scored four straight goals in the middle frame to come from behind and defeat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.

"We had good awareness, good playmaking, good patience with the puck and good speed," the Panthers head coach said of the team's second period. "I thought we checked well. Obviously scoring certainly helps, but I thought overall it was everything you're looking to do in a period."

Capitalizing on an early power play, the Panthers opened the scoring when Evgenii Dadonov sent a loose puck into the back of the net to make it 1-0 at 1:41 of the first period. Later in the period, however, Tyler Ennis lit the lamp for the Senators to even things back up 1-1 at 10:59.

At 15:39, Chris Tierney beat Sergei Bobrovsky to put Ottawa on top 2-1.

"I think in the first we were kinda hurting ourselves by turning pucks over and by just not being good in our D zone," Panthers winger Frank Vatrano said of the opening period. "Then we came in after the first period, kind of regrouped and talked as a group about what we need to do better."

Whatever was said in the room clearly lit a fire under the team from then on out.

Potting his second goal of the game on the power play, Dadonov tied the game 2-2 at 8:54 of the second period. Soon after, Noel Acciari continued his goal-scoring tear when he tapped in a shot past Craig Anderson from the doorstep to make it 3-2 less than two minutes later at 10:23.

Then, all within the final minute of the period, Frank Vatrano and Colton Sceviour touched the twine at 19:08 and 19:55, respectively, to give Florida a 5-2 lead heading into the third period.

As it stands now, the Panthers lead the league with 60 second-period goals this season.

"Every game's different," Quenneville said when asked about that success in the second period. "Maybe off the rush we're opportunistic, but for the most part that's as good as we've seen."

In the third period, Connor Brown cut Ottawa's deficit to 5-3 with a goal at 17:15. Bust just under a minute later, Jonathan Huberdeau cashed in on the empty net at 18:14 to secure the 6-3 final.

In net, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 of 31 shots, while Anderson denied 25 of 30.

"It was important for us to get two points," said Bobrovsky, who owns a 15-11-4 record this season. "We started slow a little bit and then picked it up. I thought we dominated the second period, and then in the third period we were solid defensively."

Improving their record to 21-14-5, the Panthers have won six of their last eight games.

"Every game is very important now," Dadonov said. "We're near the halfway point of the season, so every point is huge. It doesn't matter who we're playing against, you fight for every point."

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

1. EVGENII GETS THREE

Despite moving down to the fourth line for tonight's game, Dadonov still did a lot of damage.

After Mike Hoffman sent a pass toward the crease, the puck went through a defender's skate - yes, you read that right, through the middle of the skate -- and onto the stick of Dadonov, who buried a power-play goal from right outside the paint to make it 1-0 at 1:41 of the first period.

Video: FLA@OTT: Dadonov scores after puck goes through skate

Finishing with a game-high three points (two goals, one assist), Dadonov has now recorded six goals and six assists over his last 15 games. Ranking second on Florida in goals (16) and tied for third in points (32), the 30-year-old winger also leads the team with eight power-play goals.

2. THEY'VE GOT THE POWER

The power play came up big for the Panthers tonight.

Back on the man advantage in the second period, Dadonov netted his second goal of the night when he sent a blistering one-timer from the slot past Anderson to tie the game 2-2 at 8:54.

Video: FLA@OTT: Dadonov blasts home return feed for PPG

"For the goals on the power play, everybody does the work," Dadonov said of his two-goal showing. "We moved the puck well. It was nice a couple passes. I just finished a couple times."

Entering tonight with the ninth-ranked power play in the league (23 percent), Florida went 2-for-3 with the extra attacker against the Senators. Following that effort, they've now converted on the power play in six of their last eight games, going a stellar 9-for-29 (31 percent) in that span.

Assisting on both of Dadonov's goals, Keith Yandle now ranks second among the league's defensemen in helpers on the power play with 17.

"The power play obviously scored huge goals," Quenneville said. "Dads [Dadonov], I was happy with him tonight. He did some good things. He had a couple looks like that last game that didn't go in, but tonight they did. It was a good night there."

3. CAMPING TRIP

Acciari always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Camping out in front of the net, the 28-year-old winger took a pass from Vincent Trocheck and quickly tapped it past Anderson to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead at 10:23 of the second period.

"We want to be hard on the puck and we always want to make sure there's someone in front of the net," said Acciari, who is in his first season with Florida. "I'll let those guys pass the puck around, hold onto it, and I'll sit in front and take the beating. I lucked out." 

Video: FLA@OTT: Acciari capitalizes from in front

Lighting up the scoresheet since his promotion to the second line, Acciari has registered nine goals over his last seven games -- including a pair of hat tricks -- and is already building on new career-highs in goals (14) and points (17) with plenty of games left on the schedule this season.

Acciari also ranks first on the Panthers in hits (68) and second in blocks (58).

4. DID YOU HEAR THAT?

You could hear the audible ping on this goal all the way back in South Florida.

Using just a few powerful strides to separate himself from a pair of defenders, Vatrano flew into the slot all by himself before taking a pass from Dadonov and blasting a one-timer that went off the post, past Anderson and into the net to give Florida a 4-2 lead at 19:08 of the second period.

Video: FLA@OTT: Vatrano rings Dadonov's pass in off the post

"We have some offensively-gifted players on our team," Vatrano said. "Sometimes we can be stubborn at the blue line, but we've got to make the right play at the right time. We did that for the last 40 minutes of the game."

In his third season with the Panthers, Vatrano has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 40 games. A physical forward, the 25-year-old forward also posted a game-high six hits tonight.

5. WAIT A SECOND

A two-goal lead is nice… but a three-goal lead sounds better.

Just 47 seconds after Vatrano's goal, Mark Pysyk sent a pass from behind the net to Sceviour, who one-timed the puck past Anderson from the doorstep to put the Panthers up 5-2 with 4.5 seconds left in the second period.

Video: FLA@OTT: Pysyk connects with Sceviour late in the 2nd

Finding the back of the net in each of the last two games, Sceviour's five goals this season have already matched his total from the 2018-19 campaign in 29 fewer games. Racking up 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 40 games this season, he's also accumulated 43 hits and 37 blocks.

Florida's leader in shorthanded ice time (100:57) this season, the 30-year-old winger skated 3:09 against the Senators on the penalty kill, helping the unit finish a perfect 3-for-3 tonight.

BONUS: STILLMAN ON THE SCORESHEET

With an assist on Huberdeau's empty-net goal, Riley Stillman picked up his first NHL point.

Recalled from AHL Springfield on Dec. 27, the 21-year-old defenseman has competed in seven games with the Panthers this season. Over his last four games, he's averaged over 20 minutes of ice time while playing an integral role on the blue line alongside veteran Anton Stralman.

Video: FLA@OTT: Huberdeau slings the puck into the empty net

"It's been surreal," said Stillman, a fourth-round pick (114th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. "Coach had confidence in me coming up from the minors and gave me an opportunity to play."

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