Florida Panthers

Welcome home: Florida Panthers return from historic, season-saving road trip

Florida Panthers' goalie James Reimer, left, is congratulated by teammate Vincent Trochck (21) after their 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in an NHL hockey game, Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, in St. Louis.
Florida Panthers' goalie James Reimer, left, is congratulated by teammate Vincent Trochck (21) after their 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in an NHL hockey game, Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, in St. Louis. AP

As much fun as the Florida Panthers had on the road over the past 10 days, Vincent Trocheck says he’s ready to come home.

The Panthers, now the hottest team in the NHL, kick off a four-game homestand Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers at BB&T Center with the thought that they cannot slow down.

Not after the trip they just had.

Florida swept a five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history.

The trip ended Monday night as Vincent Trocheck scored with 4.6 seconds left to lead the Panthers to a 2-1 win over the host St. Louis Blues.

The game-winning goal came at the latest point in franchise history as well.

“It felt like we won the Stanley cup for just a second,” Trocheck told reporters afterward. “I think to do it with four seconds on the clock, we showed a lot of poise there in the third period.”

The Panthers turnaround these past few weeks has helped them pull into playoff contention — and perhaps more.

Florida comes back home winners of eight of its past nine games and its past five.

The resurgence brought the Panthers into third place in the Atlantic Division as of Tuesday morning, just two points behind second place Ottawa and only four back of division leader Montreal.

Before this recent run, the Panthers hadn’t had a three-game winning streak all season.

“It’s a great group of players and everybody deserves it,” said Tom Rowe, Florida’s general manager and interim head coach.

“It’s been a long season, it’s been a hard season and now everything is coming together but again we’ve got a long way to go. It’s going to be a dog fight until the end of the season.”

The Panthers now come home where they will play seven of their next eight in the friendly confines of Sunrise with only a quick trip to Philadelphia splitting up four- and three-game road trips.

“We’re obviously playing well right now,” defenseman Mark Pysyk said. “It has been a pretty awesome road trip. It’s fun right now.”

Florida, which swept a three-game California trip for the first time, came into St. Louis and took a 1-0 lead midway through the first on Jonathan Marchessault’s 17th goal of the season.

The score remained that way until early in the third when Kyle Brodziak took advantage of an exhausted Florida defense after a questionable icing call.

The two teams went back and forth with goalies Allen (31 saves) and Florida’s James Reimer (26) making one great save after another.

In the final minute, Florida got the puck into the St. Louis zone and didn’t let go of it with Trocheck flashing a shot toward a crowded goal with Allen’s view shielded by defenders as well as Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith.

“We needed it,” Trocheck said. “We know we're in the playoff race. We talked about it before the road trip that these five games were going to be huge for us coming into the playoff race.”

WEDNESDAY: OILERS AT PANTHERS

▪ When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

▪ TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WFTL 850, WMYM 990.

▪ Series: Edmonton leads 16-10-3.

▪ Scouting report: This is the second and final meeting this season with the Oilers winning 4-3 in overtime last month. Edmonton, which is in the midst of a six-game road trip, took a three-game winning streak into Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

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