SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers are showing a capacity for comebacks the NHL hasn’t seen since Wayne Gretzky’s prime.
Aaron Ekblad scored his second goal of the game 22 seconds into overtime and the Panthers rallied with five straight goals to stun the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 Thursday night.
Brett Connolly sparked the comeback with two goals in 27 seconds in the second period, and Dominic Toninato tied it with 4:23 remaining in the third. Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves, and Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau each had two assists. The Panthers won three straight games for the first time this season.
Ekblad beat Gibson from the right circle to cap Florida’s rally from a 4-0 deficit. The Panthers staged a similar five-goal comeback to beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 12th.
The Panthers are the second team in NHL history to overcome a deficit of at last four goals to win multiple times in a season. The other was Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in 1983-84.
“The first half was our poorest game up to this point, then the last 22 minutes and into the third period and overtime was a lot better,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Bobrovsky made some spectacular saves in the third.”
Ondrej Kase had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, and Rickard Rakell, Nick Ritchie and Max Jones also scored. John Gibson stopped 23 shots.
Connolly got Florida going with 1:07 left in the second, scoring on a shot from the high slot. He connected again on a flubbed shot from the slot with 40 seconds left. His misfire skipped past Gibson, who got a changeup when he was expecting a fastball.
“We didn’t play very good in the first two periods, there’s no question,” Connolly said. “But we got fortunate there at the end of the second with my lucky goal at the end there. That wasn’t the prettiest goals I’ve ever scored, but guys kept working.”
That was the turning point of the game, according to Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins.
“It was the last couple of minutes in the second where it’s a simple play; we talk about moving the puck quickly. We don’t. We turn it over. It’s, bang, in our net. And that just gives them a little bit of jump,” Eakins said. “You don’t want to give skilled teams like that hope. We handed it to them.”
Ekblad cut the deficit to one with a sharp shot from the point in the first multigoal game of his career, and Toninato tied it by poking in a rebound.
“We’re up by four. We lost. It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson. “You gotta take this and feel everything that comes with it and understand it and just do a better job next time.”
Jones put Anaheim ahead 2:45 into the game by picking up a loose puck in front and poking it in.
The Ducks then scored three times in the second. Ritchie buried a one-timer, Rackell fired one in on a power play and Kase made it 4-0 after a Florida turnover. Connolly scored 14 seconds after Kase.
NOTES: Ducks F Jakob Silfverberg assisted on Jones’ goal and leads the team with nine goals and has 18 points. … Panthers D MacKenzie Weegar missed his fifth consecutive game with an upper-body injury and isn’t expected back until next week.
Ducks: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday
Panthers: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday
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