"A great response all the way through it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a big win for us and one of those that came out of nowhere. We feel fortunate."
With the win, the Panthers are now 6-0-0 in games following losses this season.
"Bounce-back games are always huge," captain Aleksander Barkov said. "You can't lose two in a row. We actually mentioned that before the game. It's going to get us far if we keep playing like this, playing extra hard, kind of pissed off hockey after we lose. We obviously don't want to lose at all, but it gives us an extra boost for us to come out harder during the next game."
Following a scoreless first period, the Stars struck quickly in the second after being sent to the power play. After Justin Dowling's initial shot was kicked out by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Joel Pavelski cashed in on the ensuing rebound to make it 1-0 just 2:10 into the middle frame.
Putting the Panthers into a deeper hole later in the second period, the Stars doubled their lead when Jamie Benn tipped a wrist shot from John Klingberg into the cage to make it 2-0 at 17:49.
That was where the score would hold until the waning minutes of regulation. Finally breaking through for the Panthers at 13:39 of the third period, Barkov tapped in a juicy rebound past goaltender Jake Oettinger following a shot from MacKenzie Weegar to cut the deficit to 2-1.
With the floodgates finally beginning to open, Anton Stralman then blasted home a shot from beyond the right circle to get the game tied 2-2 at 14:31. Completing the comeback just 2:19 later, Frank Vatrano then buried a shot from the slot to make it 3-2 with 3:10 left in regulation.
When asked about the comeback, which helped keep the Panthers in first place in the Central Division with an impressive 13-4-2 record, Vatrano said it all came down to one word: resiliency.
"We had a couple good shifts, strung a few [goals] together and it changed the whole momentum of the game," Vatrano said. "You get one quick one and then another one. Luckily, our line got the game-winner there at the end.
"Every single game this year is so important. Playing within your division all year long, every single point matters when that 56th game hits. We need to be better for every single one. Those were some big points for us [tonight]."
Here are five takeaways from Thursday's stunning win in Sunrise…
1. THE SPARK
When you need a spark, you turn to the captain.
In desperate need of a goal, Barkov jumped on a loose puck in the blue paint behind Oettinger, poking the rubber across the goal line to cut Florida's deficit to 2-1 at 13:39 of the third period.
Video: DAL@FLA: Barkov puts home rebound to trim deficit
"The third period, especially the last 10 minutes, we were all over them," Barkov said. "We were playing in their zone almost all the time. It was just a matter of time until we were going to score a goal, and then we finally got the lucky bounce. We didn't get any lucky bounces last game."
Finding the back of the net in four of his last seven games, Barkov is now tied for the team-lead in goals (eight) and also ranks second behind Jonathan Huberdeau in points (20). Ever since he scored the first goal of his career in Dallas, he's also had a plenty of success against the Stars.
In 13 career games against the boys from the Lone Star State, he's racked up seven goals.
After Barkov broke the ice, Stralman picked up where he left off.
Carrying the puck on his stick around the offensive zone, Mason Marchment eventually sent it over to Stralman, who dropped to one knee and blasted a one-timer from beyond the right circle straight past Oettinger to suddenly make it a 2-2 game with 5:29 left on the clock in regulation.
Video: DAL@FLA: Stralman scores off iron to tie the game
"A great response after scoring the first one," Quenneville said.
Picking up quite a few points already, Stralman has tallied two goals and five assists through 19 games this season. Doing a little bit of everything during tonight's win, the 34-year-old rearguard also compiled two hits and one block to go along with his clutch goal over 21:36 of ice time.
3. IT'S TANK TIME
After Stralman tied the game, there was no doubt the Panthers were going to win.
With momentum now firmly on their side, Vatrano collected a pass from Alex Wennberg, took a split second to settle the puck down, and then rifled a wicked wrist shot over Oettinger's glove and into the top right corner of the net to send the Cats ahead 3-2 at 16:50 of the third period.
Video: DAL@FLA: Vatrano goes top shelf to give Panthers lead
"I just knew I needed to get open in the slot," said Vatrano, who also gave a lot of credit to Florida's top line for tiring out the Stars with a mammoth shift only a few moments before he hit the ice. "I was yelling for it, he put it right on my tape, and I did the easy part of putting it in."
His second game-winning goal of the season, Vatrano always seems to come up in the clutch for the Panthers. Overall, the 26-year-old forward has tallied five goals in 19 games this season.
"There wasn't much said," Vatrano said of tonight's win. "We knew what we needed to do."
4. BIG GAME FOR BOB
Without Bobrovsky, the Panthers would've never been a position to mount their comeback.
On top of his game from the moment the puck dropped, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner made a season-high 37 saves, including stopping all 11 shots he faced in the third period. Of those 37 saves, a whopping 12 originated from high-danger areas, per NaturalStatTrick.com.
"The whole game, Bob was keeping us in the game," Barkov said. "He gave us a chance to win the game, especially in the second period when they were all over us. He kept it a two-goal game. We just needed one to get going, and then it opened up after that. A huge win for us."
Quenneville described tonight's game as a "goalie win" for Bobrovsky.
"He kept us in there and gave us a chance for something to happen in the third," Quenneville said. "We found a way, but Bob was the reason why."
Improving to 6-2-1 with the victory, Bobrovsky appears to be settled back into a groove. Over his last two starts, the 32-year-old has turned aside 62 of 66 shots for a .939 save percentage.
"I felt good," Bobrovsky said. "Right from the beginning, I felt comfortable… The guys stepped up. It's a great win for us. Those kinds of wins when you're down 2-0 and then all of the sudden you find a way to win the game, it gives a great boost of energy in the locker room. Put the points in the bank. That's so important, especially for the end of the season."
5. GUDAS INJURED
The injury bug continues to bite Florida's blue line.
Already missing Markus Nutivaara and Gustav Forsling, tough-as-nails defenseman Radko Gudas was ruled out of tonight's game due to an upper-body injury.
"Day to day," Quenneville said. "We'll see how he presents over the next day or so."
Making a big impact during his first season with the Panthers, Gudas' contributions cannot be understated. Leading the league with 98 hits when tonight's slate of games began, the 30-year-old has also established himself as one of the team's go-to momentum changers and leaders.
Stay tuned to FloridaPanthers.com for updates on Gudas' status in the coming days.
BONUS: IRON YANDS
Just another day at the office for Keith Yandle.
By taking the ice tonight, the 34-year-old defenseman suited up in his 885th consecutive game, which moved him past forward Steve Larmer for third place on the NHL's all-time ironman list. Showing up to work every day for more than a decade, Yandle's streak began back in 2009.
Want to own the jersey Yandle was wearing during warm-ups on his record-breaking night?
Good news, you can!
As part of Military Appreciation Night, the Panthers are currently selling select warmup-worn, military-themed jerseys at FlaTeamShop.com. As a way to give back to those that have given all of us so much, a portion of the proceeds from these sales will go to local veteran's charities.