SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a much-needed win.
Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals in 26 seconds and Shawn Thornton scored an unusual one to lift the Panthers over the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Thursday night.
James Reimer made 22 saves and the Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak. The Panthers are seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.
Tobias Rieder scored for Arizona, and Mike Smith stopped 36 shots. The Coyotes lost for the fourth time in five games.
With the score tied at 1 in the second period, Marchessault scored twice to put the Panthers ahead 3-1. Aleksander Barkov skipped a pass to Marchessault in front and he redirected the puck into the net with 2:22 left in the period. Marchessault’s next goal came after he took a pass from Thomas Vanek and fired a shot from the left circle that went high over Smith’s shoulder on the stick side with 1:56 left. Marchessault leads the Panthers with 25 goals.
“That was a good shift. Barky’s pass was unbelievable and same with Vanek’s,” Marchessault said. “They’re two great players, great passers, and I just had to put it in that point.”
Thornton recorded his second goal of the season to tie the game at 1 in bizarre fashion. Smith was caught out of position to the side of the net and as he tried to get back in the crease, he pulled on the right side of the net with his blocker hand just as Arizona’s Jordan Martinook hit the left side of the net with his stick. As the net was falling, Thornton’s first shot bounced off Smith’s back in the crease but Thornton slid the rebound across the goal line and through the crease as the net was coming down on top of Smith but still on its moorings. After a review, the goal was awarded to the Panthers with 12:22 left in the second.
“I tried to battle back in and make the save there and the net ends up on top of me. I had no idea where it went after that,” Smith said. “It’s a kind of weird one, I haven’t seen that before.”
Added Thornton: “I didn’t think it was going to count. Not the prettiest one in my career, but our line has had some bounces that went the other way a lot this year, so nice to finally get one go the other way.”
The Panthers outshot the Coyotes 19-4 in the second period.
“We were all right in the first, then they turned it up in the second and we didn’t respond too well in the second and third,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
“When you make too many mistakes like that, it ends up in the back of your net. That’s what you get.”
Arizona took a 1-0 lead on Rieder’s goal 3:20 in. Rieder picked off an errant pass by Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk and skated in on Reimer, beating him on the stick side.
There were no penalties in the game.
NOTES: Panthers D Aaron Ekblad, who missed four games with a concussion before returning to the lineup last Tuesday, was scratched with an unrelated upper-body injury. … Coyotes D Kevin Connauton (upper body), C Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) were all scratched. … RW Shane Doan, the team captain, missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury.
Arizona: Visits the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Florida: Hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
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