SUNRISE, Fla. - Marchy Madness is in full effect.
Jonathan Marchessault scored his team-leading 24th and 25th goals of the season within a span of 26 seconds late in the second period to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night at the BB&T Center.
"Obviously I'm really happy," Marchessault said post-game. "I had a good chance here with [the Panthers] and it's been fun playing with the guys here this year. It's just great that we get the win, too, tonight. It's been a long time."
An undersized winger, who has also spent time with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Marchessault has been widely considered by numerous NHL analysts and experts to be one of the best bargains in the entire league after signing a two-year, $1.5 million deal with the Panthers on July 1.
Marchessault, 26, currently leads the Panthers in goals (25), power-play goals (7), power-play points (16) and game-winning goals (6), while also seeing his average ice team leap from 12:05 in Tampa Bay last season to a career-high 17:05 during his first season in South Florida.
"He's a pure goal scorer," Panthers General Manager and Interim Head Coach Tom Rowe said. "He's probably the purest goal scorer we have on the team."
When asked whether or not he believed he'd ever reach the 25-goal mark in his career, Marchessault didn't sugarcoat his answer or add any unnecessary false bravado, instead choosing to answer the question with the sort of candidness you'd expect from a player who was drafted late in the 12th round of the QMJHL Draft.
"Nope," he said bluntly. "Nobody knew I was able to make junior, to play pro, to play in the NHL. It's been a roller coaster for me in my career. It's been fun. I'm just trying to bring my best effort every night and see where we are after every night."
Video: EDM@FLA: Marchessault snaps in Yandle's feed for PPG
With nine games remaining in the regular season, Marchessault has a chance to become Florida's first 30-goal scorer since David Booth potted 31 in 2008-09.
"He has been great for us this season," said Panthers center Aleksander Barkov, who set up Marchessault's first goal on Thursday with a beautiful saucer pass. "He's scored 25 goals -- that's amazing. Love him and love the way he's [played] here. He helps us a lot."
After a preseason injury knocked Jonathan Huberdeau out of Florida's lineup for an extended period of time, Marchessault flourished in a top-line role alongside Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, racking up an astounding 10 points in seven games to start the season.
"In life you make your chances," Marchessault said earlier in the season. "If you work hard, good things can happen to you. It's a process."
From that moment on, Marchessault never looked back, as the fiery sniper continued to generate offense to the tune of a career-high 45 points (25-20-45), despite moving up and down Florida's injury riddled depth chart throughout the season.
Still, in Marchessault's mind, these numbers pale in comparison to what the former undrafted free agent has seemingly finally been able to find after spending the majority of his six-year professional hockey career bouncing around several organizations.
"At the beginning of the year you never know what's going to happen or how it's going to turn out," Marchessault said. "I was just able to help win hockey games at the beginning of the year. We have great players here. I think everybody should feel lucky to be here."