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5 Takeaways: Panthers Sweep 6-Game Homestand, Move into Playoff Spot

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

3/4/18 Post Game Interviews

3/4/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Roberto Luongo, Keith Yandle and Aleksander Barkov

  • 01:42 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers completed a sweep of their six-game homestand and moved into a playoff spot with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon.

The Panthers (32-25-6) have won 13 of their last 16 games and currently sit one point ahead of both Carolina and Columbus for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand. The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes can jump back ahead of Florida with wins later today.

"It's been unbelievable," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "We said before this stretch what we needed to do, putting these five and six game-winning streak together. We've done it against some pretty good teams. No different today, obviously.

"Philly pushed us hard. I liked our start again. I think that's been key to our success, but we weren't very good in the second period; they were. Louie [Roberto Luongo] made the huge saves for us when we needed him today."

Evgenii Dadonov scored the game-winning goal for the Panthers, beating Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek with a wrist shot after a deft head-fake to put Florida up 2-1 at 14:49 of the first period. With the win, the Panthers swept a homestand of at least six games for the second time in franchise history (also 6-0-0 from Dec. 20, 2015 -- Jan. 3, 2016).

Video: PHI@FLA: Dadonov beats Mrazek with quick wrister

"I think we've really bought into the system, the way that Boogs [Boughner] has structured the team," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "It's a good thing when you can get wins and play within your structure."

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

1. SASHA THE SUPERSTAR

Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov is part of a very small group of NHL players that are worth the price of admission by themselves. Florida's superstar center scored yet another beautiful goal on Sunday afternoon - the fourth-straight game in which the 22-year-old has found the back of the net. After receiving a great stretch pass from Keith Yandle, Barkov blew past Philadelphia's defense before tucking home a backhand goal on the power play to put the Panthers up 1-0 at 2:41 of the first period. The goal was Barkov's team-leading 25th of the season - three shy of the career-high 28 he posted in 2015-16. With two more points against the Flyers, he extended his point streak to six games (5-4-9) and currently paces the Panthers in points goals (25), assists (39) and points (64). "Right now, we're happy that we're getting points, getting wins, but we still have a lot of games to," Barkov said. "We want to climb the standings." 

Video: PHI@FLA: Barkov makes nice move on breakaway for PPG

2. DADONOV SCORES 20

Dadonov scored a pair of goals on Sunday night for his team-leading fifth multi-goal game of the season. Both goals came as the result of stretch passes and speed, as Dadonov flew through the zone on each play before beating Mrazek with his patented powerful and accurate wrist shot. The 28-year-old winger has been Florida's most-effective goal scorers as of late, lighting the lamp a team-leading nine times in the last 11 games, which is tied with Minnesota's Eric Staal for the most in the NHL during that span. After leaving the KHL to sign a three-year deal with the Panthers this summer, Dadonov has been outstanding, ranking third on the team in goals (tied-20) and fourth in points (47). "He's been great," Yandle said. "When he signed here, I kind of looked him up and saw what he was doing [in the KHL], his highlight-reel goals. You knew you were getting something special. He's been great. He's a guy who brings a lot of speed, a lot of high-end talent. He's been great all year."

Video: PHI@FLA: Dadonov nets wrister for second of game

3. McCANN STEPS UP

It's no secret the Panthers aren't afraid of a fight. Florida leads the NHL with 40 fights - 15 more than the next highest team - with at least 12 different players dropping the gloves at least once this season. But these brawls aren't without purpose, as the majority come when a player feels the need to stick up for a teammate. That was the case on Sunday afternoon, as Jared McCann went toe-to-toe with Flyers tough guy Radko Gudas midway through the first period. After Gudas took Maxim Mamin out with a big hit in the defensive zone, McCann stepped in and immediately dropped the gloves. The fight didn't last long, as the two briefly grappled before falling to the ice, but Boughner said it provided the Panthers with a huge boost early in the game. "It shows a lot of character," Boughner said. "His partner, his winger got hit there. I think that's part of our culture and our identity. We want to be a hard team to play against, especially at home. Sticking up for each other is part of it. I think he did a great job and I thought that was big for our momentum in the first."

4. HUBY DOES IT

Jonathan Huberdeau's 20th goal of the season was a beauty. After receiving a stretch pass from Jamie McGinn, Huberdeau fended off Gudas, knocking the hulking defenseman to the ice before slipping a backhander through Mrazek's five-hole, putting the Panthers up 4-0 at 2:26 of the third period. Huberdeau has now hit the 20-goal mark twice in his career and needs just one more score to surpass the career-high 20 he posted in 2015-16. The 24-year-old winger has 12 points (4-8-12) over his last 17 contests and ranks second on the team in assists (38) and points (58) through 63 games played this season. "I liked Huby tonight, I really did," Boughner said. "He did a lot of little things that don't show up on the scoresheet, but it was nice to see him get paid off [with a goal]. If I'm not mistaken, that was his 20th goal, so we've got that next-level of scoring, which is nice. It's a good for his confidence." 

Video: PHI@FLA: Huberdeau goes five-hole on Mrazek

5. LOUIE, LOUIE

Although the Panthers scored four goals, Barkov pointed to Luongo as the biggest reasons his team walked away with two points on Sunday afternoon. "We scored four breakaway goals in the game - that's not going to happen every game," Barkov said. "We didn't play well this game. Lou won the game for us. He stood on his head again." The 38-year-old goaltender stopped 39 of 40 shots, losing his shutout bid with 3:21 left in regulation on a goal from Travis Konecny. After sitting out more than two months with a groin injury, Luongo has played beyond even his own expectations in seven games since returning to the lineup, posting a 6-1-0 record with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. "The more wins we were getting, the more confident we were at home," said Luongo, who won five of six games on the homestand. "That being said, we have to play the same way on the road. I think we're doing a pretty good job of that. Obviously, it's got a huge game coming up for us on Tuesday [in Tampa]. It's a huge test for our club to see where we're at. We want to make sure that we keep the momentum that we've had here and play the same way on the road." 

Video: PHI@FLA: Luongo stands tall to deny Provorov

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