Florida Panthers

Marchessault’s quick goals in big second lift Florida Panthers to home win

Florida Panthers center Jonathan Marchessault (81) celebrates with teammates, Mark Pysyk (13) and Jakub Kindl (46) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thurs., March 23, 2017, in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida Panthers center Jonathan Marchessault (81) celebrates with teammates, Mark Pysyk (13) and Jakub Kindl (46) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thurs., March 23, 2017, in Sunrise, Fla. AP

Jonathan Marchessault thanked the Florida Panthers after Thursday night’s game.

With 25 goals on a flea market priced contract, the Panthers should be thanking him.

On Thursday, Marchessault — being paid $750,000 this season and next — scored twice within a span of 26 seconds late in the second as the Panthers beat visiting Arizona 3-1.

The game was one played wihtout a single penalty called.

“Obviously I’m really happy,” Marchessault said. “I had a good chance here with [the Panthers] and it’s been fun playing with the guys here this year. It’s just great that we get the win, too, tonight. It’s been a long time.”

The Coyotes, with Boca native and Arizona rookie Jakob Chychrun making his Sunrise debut and picking up the third star of the game, got the scoring started 3:20 in when Tobias Rieder snared a mishandled puck off Jakub Kindl’s stick and walked in on James Reimer.

Florida tied it midway through the second when Shawn Thornton poked a loose puck past goalie Mike Smith as the goal cage collapsed on top of him.

The cage came down thanks to Smith pulling it down as he desperately tried to get back into position and teammate Jordan Martinook poked at it from behind.

After a long review, Thornton was credited with his second goal of the year as it was determined the cage didn’t come off its moorings.

“I was thinking about just shooting it into the stands. I didn’t think it was going to count,” said Thornton, 39, who is likely playing his final NHL games and scored for the second time this season.

“I didn’t know the rule. It’s not the prettiest one of my career, but our line’s had some bounces that went the other way a lot this year, so it’s nice to finally get one go the other way.”

Later in the second, Marchessault gave Florida its first lead by hammering home a slick Sasha Barkov pass.

Moments later, he scored again off a feed from Thomas Vanek.

Florida outshot the Coyotes 19-4 in the second period.

“[Marchessault] gave us a huge boost,” Tom Rowe said. “The pass Barkov made to Marchessault was amazing – a nice saucer pass. But [Marchessault], he’s a pure goal scorer. He’s probably the purest goal scorer we have on the team. It was definitely a big goal for us.”

The Panthers came into the night a game under .500 in the win/loss column at home. Florida had lost 11 of 14 games.

With nine games left, Florida is seven points back of the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot with one fewer game played.

The Panthers visit the Bruins next weekend.

“We talked about it after the first period; we talked about it the other day with everybody – medical staff, equipment staff, training staff included,” Rowe said.

“The whole organization has got to stay positive and in it, and mentally stay in it.”

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