SUNRISE, Fla. - Evgenii Dadonov recorded his first career NHL hat trick in leading the Florida Panthers to a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at BB&T Center.
"Every game is so important for us," Dadonov said. "Tonight was another night to get points back… I'm happy to get a hat trick, to be honest. But, actually, it doesn't matter. We need these points to make the playoffs."
After lighting the lamp late in the first period, Dadonov scored twice in the third, including the game-winner. Left all alone in front of Pittsburgh's net, he took his time before firing a wrist shot past goaltender Matt Murray to put Florida up 6-5 with 1:53 left in regulation.
Video: PIT@FLA: Dadonov nets go-ahead goal for the hat trick
"The best players have to be the best players in games like this and he definitely was," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "He looked like he had it early."
The Panthers (28-25-6) now sit five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand and will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"We don't like doing it that way where we give up a lead, but we stick with it," Panthers winger Jamie McGinn said. "It just shows how tight this group is in here. We never say never. It was huge to get that win. It's a huge two points and it keeps us in the hunt. It feels good right now."
Florida ended Pittsburgh's winning streak at six.
"We bent, almost broke, but we held it together," Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo said.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Sunrise…
1. TROCHECK REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring on Saturday night, scoring on a 2-on-1 break with Denis Malgin to give the Panthers an early 1-0 lead at 3:44 of the first period. The goal was Trocheck's 55th point of the season, which set a new career high for the 24-year-old center with 23 games still left to play. Trocheck has been on fire as of late, recording 18 points (9-9-17) over his last 18 games. He has also scored five goals in his last six games and leads Florida in both goals (24) and power play goals (11).
Video: PIT@FLA: Trocheck redirects one home from in front
2. DADONOV DOES IT (AGAIN)
With time winding down in the first period, Dadonov gave the Panthers some much-needed breathing room heading into intermission. With the puck on his stick heading into the offensive zone, Dadonov fended off defenseman Brian Dumoulin before firing a top-shelf rocket over Tristan Jarry's glove to put Florida up 2-1 with 39 seconds left the period. But Dadonov wasn't done for the night. He went on to add two more goals, earning the first hat trick of his NHL career. "He's a great finisher," McGinn said. "When he gets a chance in front, he knows how to bury it." The 28-year-old winger has tallied 10 points over his last seven games, including seven goals - the most on the team during that span. A free-agent signing this summer out of Russia's KHL, Dadonov is tied for third on the Panthers in goals (18), while also ranking fourth in points (41) and sixth in shots (133). "Obviously, he has some great patience with the puck," Boughner said. "The move on the first goal, cutting inside, outside that he made. You could tell he was on early."
Video: PIT@FLA: Dadonov beats Jarry from high slot in 1st
3. DEPTH SCORING
While the top-six carried the load in the first period, it was a pair of forwards from the bottom-six that picked up the slack in the second. Jamie McGinn and Derek MacKenzie each found the back of the net for the Panthers, scoring 6:05 apart to extend Florida's lead to 4-1 midway through the second frame. McGinn, who was a healthy scratch on Thursday against Washington, pounded in a rebound on the doorstep for his ninth goal of the season - matching the nine he scored in 2016-17 with Arizona, but in 19 fewer games. MacKenzie's goal was his third of the season, coming off a rebound created by a shot by Colton Sceviour. All four lines contributed at least one goal to Florida's winning effort. "You get a goal from MacKenzie, you get a goal from McGinn," Boughner said. "Obviously, that's big. We talked about that, making sure that we had contributions throughout the lineup. We definitely did that tonight."
Video: PIT@FLA: McGinn deflects one home from down low
Video: PIT@FLA: MacKenzie nets rebound in front to pad lead
4. THE REVIEW
In one of the most-crucial moments of Saturday night's game, the Penguins had a goal taken off the scoreboard early in the second period. After Patric Hornqvist sent the puck across the goal line by pushing Luongo's pad into the net, the referee's original call on the ice was "no goal" but it was later changed to a "good goal" after a discussion with the other on-ice officials. According to Rule 78.5 (ix) "Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee when a goaltender has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a save." So, of course, Boughner immediately challenged the play for goaltender interference and, after a second look, it was overturned, keeping Florida's 4-2 lead intact at 18:03 of the second period. "As far as I know, you're not allowed to push a goalie into the net with your stick," said Luongo, who stopped 32 of 37 shots. "I had it. It wasn't covered, obviously, but he pushed my pad into the net. I don't know why they were in a tiffy that it didn't count."
Check out the review HERE.
5. MALGIN INJURED
Malgin exited Saturday night's game early after suffering an injury after a collision behind Pittsburgh net late in the third period. Malgin was able to skate to bench under his own power and make his way down the hallway into the dressing room. He did not return. The 21-year-old forward finished the game with an assist, two blocked shots and one hit in 12:15 of ice time. "From what I know, it's a day-to-day," Boughner said of the injury. "We're going to reassess him tomorrow and see how it is." Malgin has been a key player for the Panthers during their recent stretch of success, posting 11 points (5-6-11) over his last 16 games while playing alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Trocheck on the team' second line.