Panthers top Wild 5-4, improve to 10-0-0 at home
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Frank Vatrano scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves to help the Florida Panthers remain perfect at home with a 5-4 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Owen Tippett, Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett also scored for the Panthers, who improved to 13-2-3 overall and 10-0-0 at home this season. Vatrano added an assist.
“We’re a dangerous team on home ice and it’s something we want to do all year, be a good team on home ice,” Vatrano said.
Joel Eriksson Ek, Kirill Kaprizov, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman scored for the Wild (11-6-0). Cam Talbot stopped 32 of 36 shots.
“Great hockey game. They’re a great team, we’re a great team,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It was a fun game. We just came up a little short.”
Florida is the fourth team in NHL history to start a season with at least 10 consecutive wins on home ice. Chicago, in 1963-64, started 11-0-0 at home. The original Ottawa Senators started 10-0-0 in 1925-26, as did Montreal in 2016-17.
And now, the Panthers are on that list.
“This is a tough building to play in and we’re ready to go every night,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
Vatrano’s three-point night was a huge key, Brunette said.
“When he gets to shooting the puck like he does and gets a little mojo going, he’s obviously dangerous and he has a knack of scoring big goals,” Brunette said.
Florida has scored at least four goals in each of its home games to move within one game of the longest such streak to start a season. Philadelphia had an 11-game string to open 1992.
Minnesota pulled within 3-2 when Kaprizov scored his fifth goal on a wrist shot 1:55 into the third period. Verhaeghe scored at 5:42 to restore Florida’s two-goal lead, and it stayed that way until Foligno scored with 45.1 seconds left.
Bennett got an empty-netter for Florida nine seconds later — which became a big goal when Hartman scored with 8.6 seconds remaining.
“Well, one thing, we know we can play with anybody,” Minnesota’s Nico Sturm said. “They’re probably as good a team as we’re going to see this year. ... That was arguably, in my 2 1/2 years in the league, probably the fastest pace that I’ve seen.”
Minnesota rookie Brandon Duhaime had never played at Florida before — at least, not as a member of the Wild. Duhaime was born in Coral Springs, Florida, about 15 minutes from the arena where he played on Saturday night. He did a lot of his learning to play hockey at what still is the Panthers’ practice facility. “I was a big fan,” Duhaime said.
NOTES: Wild D Jared Spurgeon (lower-body injury) left after playing a little more than three minutes. ... Panthers C Aleksander Barkov (knee), who got hurt Tuesday and was expected to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, was on the ice for an optional skate Saturday. Brunette didn’t know Barkov had gotten the work in. “A good sign,” he said. ... Minnesota hadn’t played at Florida since Dec. 3, 2019. ... Former Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad was among the scratches for the Wild.
Wild: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
Panthers: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
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