Florida Panthers

Panthers best Penguins in matchup of NHL trade partners

Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson (19) celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith (1) during the overtime of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Sunrise. The Panthers won 3-2 in overtime.
Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson (19) celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith (1) during the overtime of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Sunrise. The Panthers won 3-2 in overtime. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

We likely won’t know for at least a couple of years who “won” last week’s trade between the Florida Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But the result of their game on Thursday night at the BB&T Center is clear — the Panthers won it 3-2 on Mike Matheson’s goal with 45.6 seconds left in overtime. Matheson also had an assist in regulation.

The game was played six days after the Panthers got Derek Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three draft picks. Pittsburgh received Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.

On Thursday, McCann scored for Pittsburgh, which ended a Penguins drought of six consecutive periods without a goal.

It was McCann’s ninth goal of the season and his first with the Penguins.

Brassard posted one assist for the Panthers.

Bjugstad, elevated to Pittsburgh’s top line along with superstar Sidney Crosby, was held without a point, taking just one shot on goal in 20:12 of ice time.

For Matheson, it was his fifth goal of the season. Jonathan Huberdeau earned the primary assist. Aleksander Barkov picked up his second assist of the night and has 301 career points.

Florida also got goals from Colton Sceviour and Evgenii Dadonov. Sceviour’s goal was just his fourth of the season and his first since Dec. 6. Dadonov’s goal, his 19th, ended his eight-game drought.

The Penguins – losers of three consecutive games — were without star center Evgeni Malkin (upper-body injury). Malkin has missed four games in a row.

Casey DeSmith, playing just his 44th NHL game, made 39 saves for Pittsburgh. He started in place of Matt Murray, who is on the injured list for the third time this season, this time with an upper-body ailment. He missed one game in November due to a concussion and was out for four weeks in December due to a lower-body injury.

Florida’s Roberto Luongo, who at age 39 is 12 years older than DeSmith, made 29 saves for Florida. It was Luongo’s first start in six days and his first win since Jan. 21.

Florida opened the scoring on Dadonov’s power-play goal with 5:22 elapsed in the first period.

On the play, Matheson fired the puck off the back wall. Dadonov quickly gathered the spinning puck and backhanded it in between the pads of DeSmith, who did a split as he moved from his left to his right. Brassard got the secondary assist.

Pittsburgh tied the score with 13:51 gone in the second period on McCann’s shorthanded odd-man rush. With only Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad back and Bryan Rust on his left, McCann kept the puck and fired it past Luongo.

It was McCann’s second career shorthanded goal, and both have come this season. The other one was scored on New Year’s Eve against the Detroit Red Wings.

Florida took a 2-1 lead with just 2:28 left in the second period. Nine seconds after Pittsburgh had killed off a Rust slashing penalty on Florida’s Mike Hoffman, Barkov slid a soft pass back to Sceviour, who beat DeSmith with a high shot to his glove side.

Pittsburgh tied the score 2-2 on Marcus Pettersson’s shot through traffic with 11:43 left in the third period. It was the defenseman’s second career goal and his first this season, but the Panthers recovered just in time to earn the victory.





THIS AND THAT

▪ This was sweet revenge for the Panthers. When the Penguins beat the Panthers 5-1 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 8, it marked one of seven times this season Florida has been whipped by at least four goals. Columbus and Tampa Bay did it in November, Minnesota and Toronto did the job in December, and Vancouver and Montreal joined the Penguins last month.

▪ After playing against Crosby, the Panthers will face two more superstars in their next two games: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL in goals scored; and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL in points.

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