The Panthers got to celebrate their first victory of the month for a brief moment on Tuesday night in Sunrise.
The deep bass resonated from the closed doors of the locker room as loud cheers were heard when Thomas Vanek — who had a career-high four assists in Florida’s 7-2 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs — was the newest recipient of the “Vinnie’s Barbershop” cape, which goes to the top player following a win.
It had been some time since the cape made an appearance as the Panthers had lost five consecutive games dating to a 3-2 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28.
Vanek was still playing for the Detroit Red Wings at that time and was traded to the Panthers the following day.
Before beating the Maple Leafs, Florida had lost eight of nine.
“It’s nice to win this one and have a good feeling,” goalie James Reimer said.
“I think you enjoy it — just like anything — [Tuesday night] and then you get back to work [Wednesday].
“We’re a good team in here. We’ve still got a lot of belief in here. We’ve got to go onto the ice and play with that conviction.”
The Panthers couldn’t get too giddy with their win, knowing what’s on tap: a three-game trip against three teams who have all but punched their tickets to the postseason.
Florida remains outside the fray of the Eastern Conference race, coming into Wednesday six points back of the New York Islanders and suddenly resurgant Tampa Bay Lightning for the second and final wild-card spot.
The Panthers have 14 games remaining, with many coming against teams in front of them in the standings.
After playing at Columbus on Thursday night, Florida turns around and visits the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
This mini-roadie ends Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
“We needed that game, especially against them,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season on Tuesday.
“It was huge, but right now we have to forget it. We have a big three-game road trip ahead of us and we’ll focus on that.”
The Panthers hope Tuesday’s win over the tanned and possibly hungover Leafs — the Toronto squad spent a few days enjoying spring break on Fort Lauderdale Beach — is a turning point in their season.
If Florida gets to the postseason, there would be little doubt Tuesday’s turnaround against Toronto would be pointed to as the night things got going once more.
“We’re hoping this is one of those games we look at and continue to get better off of,” Keith Yandle said. “We can’t score seven goals every night, but we know we have the offense in here to get things done.”
Thursday: Panthers at Blue Jackets
When/where: 7 p.m.; Nationwide Arena, Columbus.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.
Series: Columbus leads 14-9-0.
Scouting report: The Panthers are one of the few teams to have sustained success against the Blue Jackets this season, winning both meetings — both in Sunrise. … Columbus has won five of seven this month. Florida won its first March game Tuesday night against Toronto.