Panthers 5, Devils 3

Brad Boyes, Scottie Upshall help Florida Panthers outlast New Jersey Devils to end skid

Florida Panthers’ Tomas Fleischmann (14), of the Czech Republic, and teammate Jonathan Huberdeau (11) look for the puck as New Jersey Devils’ Adam Henrique (14) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on March 14, 2014. The Panthers 5-3.
Florida Panthers’ Tomas Fleischmann (14), of the Czech Republic, and teammate Jonathan Huberdeau (11) look for the puck as New Jersey Devils’ Adam Henrique (14) defends during the second period of an NHL hockey game at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on March 14, 2014. The Panthers 5-3.
Luis M. Alvarez / AP

The Panthers’ youthful energy won the first period. New Jersey’s desperate energy dominated the second period.

A line that blended the young (center Nick Bjugstad) and desperate veterans (wingers Brad Boyes and Scottie Upshall) took the third period and a 5-3 win for the Panthers on nFriday night at BB&T Center, ending a three-game losing streak.

Boyes tied the game on a breakaway, then assisted on Upshall’s game winner in front of an announced 14,496. Rookie center Vincent Trocheck threw in an empty netter with 32.5 seconds left to clinch the win.

“All season, we’ve always had that push at the end, even when we come up short,” Boyes said. “Against Tampa [Thursday] night, we had a couple of goals in the last minute, but we were a little short. Tonight we were able to complete that. [The Devils] are fighting hard for a spot.”

Bjugstad’s line spent the night matched against Tuomo Ruutu, Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr, the latter leading the Devils in scoring at 42. Jagr got the Devils’ first goal that tied the game 1-1 with 1:15 left in a first period the Panthers owned before that. Longtime Panthers nemesis Patrik Elias assisted on Bryce Salvador’s first goal of the season, which put the Devils up 2-1 and scored himself from wide of the left faceoff dot to expand the lead to 3-2.

A scrum that included Canadian sports networks TSN and SportsNet surrounded Panthers once-and-again goalie Roberto Luongo, asking him about facing former Vancouver teammate and friend Cory Schneider, who took Luongo’s job before being traded to New Jersey last summer, and Sunday’s game against Vancouver.

Though Luongo joked about beating Schneider, “I actually feel bad. They need the points more than us,” he took great solace in stopping all 11 third period Devils shots. Early in the period, with the Panthers still down 3-2, Jagr barged in on a breakaway, threw a couple of backhand shots at Luongo and tried to almost guide the puck around Luongo with his long reach. Jagr’s attempt slid wide, but he quickly regained the puck and got stoned on the doorstep trying to shove home a two-goal lead.

“I wasn’t happy with myself after the third goal,” Luongo said. “The puck found its way between my arm and my pad. I came out in the third, I wanted to shut the door for the boys, and I was happy that I got rewarded with a couple of big goals.”

It took the Panthers 14:30 of the second to get their first shot on goal of the period, but only 14:32 to get their only goal of the period.

Panthers 34-year-old center Scott Gomez, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year for the 1999-2000 Stanley Cup winning Devils who swept the Panthers in the playoffs, cruised into the right circle for a low wrister. The rebound from Schneider’s pad save came right back to Gomez, who fed Howden in the slot for a redirect that cut the Devils’ lead to 3-2.

So for all the Devils’ dominance in the second, the Panthers were one turnover and one shot from tying the game.

New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne provided the turnover, an ill-advised breakout pass through the middle. Boyes picked off the pass, walked in and overpowered Schneider through the five-hole at 4:31 of the third.

Then, Boyes, from one knee, found Upshall in the left circle. Upshall considered passing, then saw the shooting lane and beat Schneider inside the far post.

“I thought that whole line relished the opportunity to play against [the Zajac line],” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. “Every time I looked down and [the Zajac line] were on the ice, they wanted to go. That’s an important transition for your team.”

• The Panthers called up defenseman Colby Robak and inserted him into the lineup for captain Ed Jovanovski. The Panthers other scratches were center Jesse Winchester, left wing Sean Bergenheim and defenseman Erik Gudbranson. New Jersey scratched center Jacob Josefson, defensemen Peter Harrold and defenseman Eric Gelinas.

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