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Panthers Visit Carolina Looking for 4th-Straight Win

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

The Florida Panthers will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they kick off a back-to-back set with a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Saturday.

Reviving their "Comeback Cats" moniker, the Panthers enter tonight's matchup riding high after becoming the second team in NHL history to win two games when trailing by four goals in the same season after a 5-4 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks at BB&T Center on Thursday.

The first of those wild comebacks came less than two weeks earlier, when Florida climbed out of a 4-0 hole in the third period to defeat the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins 5-4 in a shootout at TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 12 -- the biggest third-period comeback win in franchise history.

Still, Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville doesn't want to see his team make a habit out of having to come back in such on a fashion moving forward. Despite the fact the team boasts an impressive 5-4-2 record when trailing after two periods, they've been even better with a lead.

When leading after 40 minutes this season, Florida has posted a 7-0-1 record.

"Always great to win," Quenneville said. "This wasn't textbook how we play. I think you get excited when you play the right way and you deserve wins. Tonight, we'll take it. But we've got to be better. The Boston game was highly improbable, and this one was the same way."

Improbable? Yes.

Exhilarating? Also, yes.

While their latest win wasn't exactly how they drew it up, there's no denying the confidence and momentum the Panthers gained following their win over the Ducks. Armed with the top-ranked offense in the league (3.68 goals per game), they know they can come back from any deficit.

Falling behind 4-0 late in the second period against Anaheim, Brett Connolly scored twice within a span of 27 seconds to make it a manageable 4-2 score entering the second intermission. In potting a pair of timely goals, the 27-year-old winger moved into a tie for the team-lead with 10 goals.

"You get a good chance and you score, then you get a lucky one and it kind of changes the game for yourself and your team," Connolly said of his two goals in quick succession. "It was good to see the first [goal] go in, then obviously the second one and we're going into the third period down two knowing we can score goals. It's a great team win and obviously everyone is very excited, and the energy is great. The guys earned that one and it's great to see."

In the third period, Aaron Ekblad buried a booming slap shot to get the team to within one before Dominic Toninato, who was recalled from AHL Springfield just a few days earlier, banged home the game-tying goal with less than five minutes left to make it 4-4 and get the game to overtime.

Just 22 seconds into the extra frame, Ekblad roofed the winner to secure the 5-4 win.

"It's all belief from every guy," Ekblad said. "You're sitting on the bench, goals are going in, but nobody's freaking out. Everybody's calm, cool and collected. We're confident that we can come back in any situation. We obviously don't want to be in that situation often, but it's a huge win."

A team that made more than a few headlines for having a little magic of their own last season, the Hurricanes (13-8-1), who reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2018-19, have been a little up and down so far this season as they've gone on extended streaks in both directions.

After opening the season with a five-game winning streak -- including a 6-3 victory at Florida on Oct. 8 -- Carolina went on to lose eight of its next 12 games before piecing together a four-game winning streak that was only recently snapped with a 5-3 loss against Philadelphia on Thursday.

"We were sluggish most of that game," Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour told reporters after the loss to the Flyers. "We got going in spurts, but we were never able to get footing. It's a frustrating game, because you're going to give up some goals, but we felt like, way too easy on the goals. That's the game."

Like the Panthers, Carolina can also put the puck in the back of the net.

Led by forward Andrei Svechnikov (24 points) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (23 points), the Hurricanes boast the league's seventh-ranked offense (3.45 goals per game) and eighth-ranked power play (23.2 percent). Over their last five games, they've racked up a whopping 24 goals.

"We've been scraping points all season here," Connolly said. "Guys have been working extremely hard and [Quenneville] has been on us all year to be consistent with our work ethic and our habits. It's good to obviously get on a roll.

"We've just been grinding so much to get points. It feels like we just find a way every night. On a three-game win streak, we've got a tough back-to-back here starting in Carolina. They're a really good team and it's a tough place to play… We've just got to keep pushing."

Neither team has announced a starting goaltender, but it's possible that we see Florida's Sergei Bobrovsky go up against Carolina's Petr Mrazek tonight. Bobrovsky (9-4-4) has won each of his last three starts, posting a .912 save percentage in that span. Meanwhile, Mrazek (10-4-1), has won three of his last four, but has registered a .897 save percentage throughout those contests.

Over his last three starts, Bobrovsky has stopped all 36 shots he's faced in the third period.

"Closing the door three games at home, that's a big reason why we won them," Quenneville said.

The Panthers (12-5-5) have won seven of their last 10 games.

PANTHERS NOTES

-- Keith Yandle leads Florida's defensemen in points (18), including one goal and 13 assists over his last 11 games. Named the NHL's "Third Star of the Week" on Monday, the 33-year-old also ranks tied for third among the league's blueliners in points on the power play with 11.

-- Jonathan Huberdeau has earned at least one point in 18 of Florida's 22 games this season. Leading the team in scoring with 30 points, he's also tied for the lead in goals with 10. Over his last 10 games, the 26-year-old winger has registered five goals and 12 assists.

-- Mike Hoffman enters tonight's matchup on a six-game point streak, posting three goals and four assists in that span. The 29-year-old winger ranks fourth on the Panthers in goals (9) and tied for first in power-play goals (5). He ranks second in shots on goal on the team with 61.

-- Aaron Ekblad has accumulated 11 points (four goals, seven assists) over his last 16 games, including the first multi-goal game of his NHL career on Thursday against Anaheim. Overall, the 23-year-old defenseman has notched 13 points (four goals, nine assists) this season.

-- Aleksander Barkov ranks second on the Panthers in points (29). His 22 assists lead the team and rank tied for fourth in the league. Over his last 14 games, the 24-year-old center has produced seven goals and 16 assists.

-- Evgenii Dadonov ranks third on Florida in points (20) and tied for first in goals (10). Producing at exactly a point-per-game clip over his last 13 games, the 30-year-old winger has tallied six goals and seven assists for 13 points in that span.

-- Brett Connolly enters tonight's matchup riding a four-game point streak, notching four goals and two assists in that span. The 27-year-old winger is tied for first on the Panthers with 10 goals.

-- Vincent Trocheck has posted four points (two goals, two assists) over his last four games.

-- Noel Acciari is expected to suit up in his 200th NHL game tonight.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Brian Boyle - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano - Denis Malgin - Mike Hoffman

Dominic Toninato - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour

Defensemen

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Mark Pysyk - Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson - Josh Brown

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratches: MacKenzie Weegar (upper-body), Jayce Hawryluk (upper-body)

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

- Nov. 18: F Dominic Toninato was recalled from AHL Springfield.

- Nov. 18: F Dryden Hunt was loaned to AHL Springfield.

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN

When: Saturday, Nov. 23, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where: PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC

TV: FSF

Alternate Channels: DTV 654-1; AT&T 721; AT&T HD 1721

Stream: FOX Sports GO

Panthers Radio Network: 99.9 FM HD-2 (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)

HD Radio Channel: 99.9 HD-2 FM. Tune your FM dial and click the HD-2 option for FM 99.9. The game can also be heard on radio.com by clicking on WKIS HD-2 on the radio.com mobile app or website.

Territory on Tap Locations: HERE

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