There were many who figured the Panthers’ four-goal win earlier this season in Anaheim — one of the top teams in the NHL — was a tad on the fluky side.
Perhaps they just like playing the Ducks.
Tuesday, Florida brought more of the same against their 1993 expansion cousin, dropping Anaheim by a 6-2 score for the second time in the past few months.
The Panthers won by the same score in Anaheim on Nov. 16.
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“That’s a fun game to be a part of, everyone was scoring and making plays,’’ Nick Bjugstad said.
“I don’t think we expected that kind of game again. I guess we match up pretty well against them. It worked out [Tuesday night].’’
The Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead early in the second and went into the third up three at 5-2. Florida’s goal scorers on Tuesday: Dmitry Kulikov, Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Dave Bolland and Jimmy Hayes.
Jonathan Huberdeau was named top star of the game with three assists.
“That’s our team and we need that to be successful,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought everyone played real well, real hard.’’
The Panthers needed a win not only to pick up ground in the playoff race but because they are about to embark on a really tough stretch. In the coming weeks, Florida plays seven games in 11 days — six coming on the road.
As for the scoreboard watch, well, with three wins in the past four, Florida is within four points of Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“This is huge,’’ Ekblad said. “Obviously we need as many points as we can to get back in the race. We’re right there behind Boston, but it hurt to give up one point against Nashville. Still, five of six against these teams [Kings, Predators and Ducks] is something you’ll take most days.’’
Florida opened the scoring on a long slap shot from Kulikov 5:31 in before Bjugstad made it 2-0 with his second goal in three games.
Ekblad scored early in the third before the Panthers gave the Ducks a golden opportunity. Both Steven Kampfer and Bjugstad were called for penalties at the same time, giving the Ducks a 5-on-3 advantage for an entire two-minute stint.
As expected, Anaheim cashed in as Kyle Palmieri scored.
The Panthers didn’t let that goal deter them, however, as Barkov and Bolland scored within a span of 22 seconds to make it 5-1.
Anaheim pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov when it was 3-0, and the veteran couldn’t bear to watch as he sat on the bench refusing to pull off his mask.
There sure wasn’t much to see — at least from the Ducks’ perspective. Anaheim, which has the second-most points in the league behind Nashville, has lost three in a row.
“This was a big night for us, big two points,’’ Hayes said. “It’s nice to play with the lead. We had a lot of confidence in our team.’’
Winger Brandon Pirri injured his shoulder after being hurt 17 seconds into the game when he and Ryan Getzlaf collided at center ice on the opening shift.
Gallant said he didn’t think it was anything too serious.
▪ Shawn Thornton was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three. He promptly got into a fight with Anaheim’s Tim Jackman on just his second shift.
Sean Bergenheim, who also missed the previous three games, was back as well. Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky sat out.
▪ Tomas Fleischmann recorded his 300th NHL point with the primary assist on Bolland’s goal.