SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner didn’t even see the winning goal. Instead, he simply listened for the roar of the crowd.
“I haven’t even seen it yet,” Boughner said after the game. “Superstition. I looked away, I heard the noise. I didn’t see any of our (shootout) goals.”
Vincent Trocheck scored the deciding goal in the shootout to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night for their franchise-record eighth straight home win.
“Yeah, it’s pretty fun knowing that if you score, it’s over, game-winner,” Trocheck said. “Everybody in here kind of wants the puck on their stick in that situation.”
Aleksander Barkov also scored in the tiebreaker for the Panthers, who have points in nine straight games. The Panthers are two points behind Columbus and three behind New Jersey for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with three games in hand on each.
Frank Vatrano scored a goal in his Panthers debut, Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and an assist, and Jamie McGinn also scored. Trocheck had two assists. Roberto Luongo made 34 saves.
“We’ve been winning different ways throughout this stretch here. That’s what good teams do,” Luongo said.
Kevin Hayes, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello scored in regulation for the Rangers, who lost their third straight. Ryan Spooner had a pair of assists. Zuccarello also scored to open the shootout. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 shots in his 800th career game, becoming the 15th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone.
The Rangers scored twice in the third period.
Trailing 3-2, the Rangers tied the score 3-3 as Hayes took a wrist shot from above the right circle that went over Luongo and into the net at 7:25 of the third.
Zibanejad tied the score 2-all when he took a drop pass from Jesper Fast and put the puck into the upper corner of the net 17 seconds into the third.
“Our guys played hard, made good plays with the puck, came back three times in this game,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it done in the shootout.”
The Panthers answered less than a minute later when McGinn slid a rebound between Lundqvist’s pads at 1:02 to reclaim the lead at 3-2.
“We kept battling,” Lundqvist said. “We kept coming back in this game and gave ourselves the chance to almost win it. If I can mix in a save in the shootout, maybe we get a win.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Huberdeau found a loose puck in the front of the crease and poked it behind Lundqvist on a power play with 14.8 seconds left in the first.
Vatrano, traded to Florida from Boston on Feb. 22 for a third-round pick, redirected a pass from Vincent Trocheck into the net from in front at 8:13 of the second to make it 2-0. Vatrano had been sidelined with a high-ankle sprain since the trade,
“It’s awesome. It’s even better that it helped out getting a win,” Vatrano said.
The Rangers closed to 2-1 on the goal by Zuccarello. Neal Pionk shot from the point and Zuccarello deflected it into the net with 6:49 left in the second.
NOTES: Gold Medalist Emily Pfalzer of Team USA hockey participated in the ceremonial puck drop. Panthers D Mike Matheson, her boyfriend, greeted her at center-ice. … Panthers D Keith Yandle has 20 points in 18 games. … Spooner has two goals and 10 assists in seven games for the Rangers since he was acquired in a trade with Boston on Feb. 25. … Rangers F Chris Kreider returned after missing the final two periods of Thursday night’s 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay after taking a hit to the head near the end of the first period. … Lundqvist is the first goalie born outside North America to reach the 800-game mark. He joined Martin Brodeur (1,266 with New Jersey) and Phil Esposito (873 with Chicago) as the only goalies to hit the milestone with one team.
Rangers: Host Carolina on Monday night.
Panthers: Host Ottawa on Tuesday night.
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