Frank Vatrano erupts for 4 points as Panthers handle Sharks
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — For the Florida Panthers, the All-Star break arrives when they are in the middle of a win streak.
Frank Vatrano had a goal and three assists for a career-high four points to lift the Panthers over the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Monday night, their third straight win after losing their previous seven games.
The Panthers beat Nashville and Toronto in their past two games and scored 13 goals in the process.
“Going into the break, that’s three wins in a row against some pretty good teams,” Vatrano said. “Obviously there’s a break coming up, but you’ve got to keep it going.”
Vincent Trocheck, Keith Yandle and Nick Bjugstad each had a power-play goal for the Panthers. Mike Matheson and Aaron Ekblad also scored, Roberto Luongo stopped 27 shots and Aleksander Barkov added three assists.
Trocheck isn’t ready for a break after playing in his third game since returning from a broken ankle.
“Definitely. I mean, I haven’t played in 27 games, so I wish we could keep playing,” Trocheck said. “I’m sure a lot of these guys could use a little bit of a break. I think we’ll continue the momentum afterwards.”
After the game was tied at 2, the Panthers scored two power-play goals in nine seconds during the third period. Evander Kane received a double-minor for high-sticking against Bjugstad, and the Panthers made the most of the opportunity.
Yandle gave Florida a 3-2 lead when his wrist shot from the left corner went high into the net at 2:27. Trocheck’s shot from the slot put the Panthers up 4-2 at 2:36.
“That’s the game. It’s 2-2 going into the third,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “At that point, we need a big kill. We need a big save and we didn’t get either.”
The high-stick on Bjugstad drew blood.
“Obviously, it’s a tough play. You don’t mean to high-stick a guy, you’re just trying to go around him,” Kane said.
Vatrano’s backhand stretched the margin to 5-2 at 7:22 and chased Jones. Bjugstad added a power-play goal with 37.7 seconds left.
“Part of me wishes the break wasn’t upon us, but I think we do need the rest,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “If we compete and play like we have the last four games we can make things interesting down the stretch.”
Florida took a 2-1 lead when Matheson’s one-timer from the right circle beat Jones at 6:07 of the second.
San Jose tied it on a disputed goal by Meier with 6:40 left in the period. Meier appeared to have pushed the puck into the net by hitting Luongo’s glove and pad with his stick. The play was initially ruled no goal, then changed after the referees conferred. The Panthers challenged for goalie interference, but the goal stood following a replay review.
The Sharks tied it 1-all on Couture’s goal. Brent Burns took a shot from the point and Couture tipped the puck and it trickled between Luongo’s pads at 4:21 of the second.
Florida opened the scoring when Barkov passed to Ekblad in the slot and his shot went over Jones’ stick with 2:39 left in the first.
Sharks D Erik Karlsson missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … D Marc-Edouard Vlasic took part in the morning skate but missed his ninth consecutive game with a wrist injury. … Trocheck has four points (two goals, two assists) in three games since missing 27 because of his broken right ankle.
Sharks: Visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
Panthers: Host the Nashville Predators on Feb. 1
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