SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are reaching new heights at home.
With a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night at BB&T Center, the Panthers set a new franchise record with their eighth consecutive home victory and improved to 21-9-3 overall at home this season.
"I know last year that one of the issues was the home-ice record," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "We wanted to make sure that we established that culture and identity of being a tough place to play in. We wanted to be a good home team. We've certainly done that as of late."
Vincent Trocheck scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, beating Henrik Lundqvist with a nice deke before slipping the puck through the goaltender's five-hole to secure two points in a tight playoff race for the Panthers.
"Them tying the game late like that, it can get to you mentally," Trocheck said. "A lot of teams could just fold after that. But I think the way we played after that, we kind of took it to them and had a little more confidence going into overtime and the shootout."
Video: NYR@FLA: Trocheck beats Lundqvist for shootout win
Florida (34-25-7) has now won 15 of its last 19 games and trails New Jersey by three points for the first wild card spot and Columbus by two points for the second wild card spot into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand on both.
"I think these wins are just character wins," Trocheck said.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's record-setting shootout win in Sunrise…
1. HUBY DOES IT (AGAIN)
In a little bit of deja vu, Jonathan Huberdeau once again made sure the Panthers headed into the first intermission on a high note. With Florida on the power play, Huberdeau jumped on a loose puck in the crease and tapped it over the goal line to open the scoring with 15 seconds left in the first period. The goal was not only Huberdeau's 22nd of the season, a new career high, but also his second goal in as many games. On Thursday against Montreal, Huberdeau scored the game's first goal with just under four minutes remaining in the first frame. Huberdeau finished the game with two points (1-1-2) to reach and then surpass the 60-point plateau for the first time in his career. The 24-year-old winger now has eight points (4-3-7) over his last nine games and ranks third on the Panthers with 39 assists.
Video: NYR@FLA: Huberdeau cashes in on loose puck for PPG
2. BEST IN THE NHL
With another power-play goal on Saturday night, the Panthers continued their terrific tear with the man advantage. With a 1-for-2 performance against the Rangers, the Panthers have now gone 16-for-50 (32 percent) with the man advantage over their last 16 games. Since Feb. 5, Florida's power-play unit ranks first in the NHL and sits at 19.7 percent overall this season. With an assist on Huberdeau's goal, Vincent Trocheck recorded his team-leading 23rd power-play point, moving him into the top-20 in the NHL in that category. Additionally, Trocheck's 12 power play goals are tied for fourth in the league. "It's just a matter of everybody pulling together and working hard as a team," Trocheck said. "We're working hard as a team, playing our system and playing our team game. That's what's been winning us games these last couple weeks."
3. WELCOME, FRANK!
Frank Vatrano wasted little time in announcing himself to the home crowd, scoring his first goal in his first game as a member of the Panthers on Saturday night. Waiting on the doorstep, Vatrano received a beautiful backhand pass from Vincent Trocheck behind the goal line, redirecting the puck into the net to put the Panthers up 2-0 at 8:13 of the second period. Acquired in a pre-deadline trade with Boston, Vatrano scored two goals in 25 games with the Bruins, but hadn't seen in-game action since suffering a high-ankle sprain on Feb. 6. In his debut with the Panthers, Vatrano skated a career-high 19:05 and also saw time on Florida's power play and in overtime. "It's awesome," Vatrano said. "It's even better that I helped out in getting a win. For me, it's kind of just taking it shift-by-shift, getting used to the systems. I haven't played in about a month. It was probably the most minutes I've played in two years."
Video: NYR@FLA: Vatrano taps home Trocheck's feed for goal
4. McGINN ANSWERS
When Mika Zibanejad made it a 2-2 game just 17 seconds into the third period, Jamie McGinn made sure the Panthers responded quickly, scoring 45 seconds later to restore Florida's lead. The scoring play started when Alex Petrovic fired a long shot from the right boards, with McGinn pouncing on the rebound in the crease and beating Lundqvist with a powerful snap shot to put the Panthers up 3-2 at 1:02 of the period. "That was real important," Boughner said of the goal. "I think that it was a huge response, a momentum shift, for us. These guys played hard and they never stopped the whole night. It was important that we got that goal back and we're feeling good about ourselves playing with a lead once again." The goal was McGinn's 10th of the season, marking the sixth 10-goal campaign of his career. The 29-year-old winger now has three points (1-2-3) in his last five games and is tied for ninth on the Panthers with 20 points (10-10-20).
Video: NYR@FLA: McGinn capitalizes on rebound in front
5. SHOOTOUT SUCCESS
Don't ask Boughner what he thought of Saturday's shootout win because, well, he didn't see what happened. The superstitious head coach refuses to watch during shootouts, so he missed both goals by Aleksander Barkov and Trocheck. "I just watch [assistant coach] Paul McFarland's face and I can tell if it's good or bad," Boughner said. After Barkov buried another dazzling shot on his attempt, Trocheck stepped in and won the game in the third round. Barkov is 4-for-6 in the skills competition this season, "I think we know that Barky's obviously going to score every time," Trocheck said. "It's basically up to me or Huby to put the second one in." Roberto Luongo, who stopped 34 of 37 shots in regulation, stopped two of New York's three shooters. It was Florida's first shootout since Jan. 7. "Patience is key," Luongo said. "On the first one, I tried to be as patient as I could, but that was a hell of a move that he made. Luckily, the next two, I was able to stay with them."
Video: NYR@FLA: Barkov beats Lundqvist with slick wrister
BONUS: VATRANO IMPRESSES
Here's what Boughner and Trocheck had to say about Vatrano's debut:
"I actually really liked him. I think for a guy that hasn't played in a while, and a new team and a new system, he fit in really well on that line. A guy that just you can tell his offensive instincts. He gets where he needs to be to get the puck. He had some nice plays tonight. He really complimented that line. We're fortunate to have him. I think he's going to be a real good player for us." - Boughner
"He's a great player. He's really fast and works hard. It's nice to have a guy on my wing that can kind of move the puck quick, get in the zone with some speed and open up some space for me and Huby." - Trocheck