Sam Reinhart took a pass from Aleksander Barkov in the opening seconds of overtime on Saturday and quickly fired the one-timer from the left circle. As the shot bounced off the crossbar and into the net past goaltender Jeremy Swayman, Reinhart immediately let out a roar and lifted his arms in the air as his teammates swarmed him on the ice.
Overall, the game saw two massive blunders from the Panthers followed by two moments of redemption, a go-ahead goal by Boston with 48.6 seconds left, a game-tying goal by Florida with two seconds left and, finally, Reinhart’s overtime game winner 17 seconds into overtime.
And let’s not forget the stellar performance in net by Alex Lyon, the Panthers’ third-string goaltender playing in his sixth consecutive game with both Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body) and Spencer Knight (upper body) injured.
“It was a gutsy win, to be able to come back,” Reinhart said. “Obviously it was a pretty devastating one to give up with under a minute left. ... It’s a big effort to be able to pull out the win.”
From the individual game level, the win snaps Florida’s three-game losing streak and has them at 24-22-6 heading into the All-Star Break. The Panthers also won their first game of the season after trailing entering the third period — they were 0-17-1 in those instances before Saturday.
From a season-overview standpoint, Florida finds itself riding a high into the All-Star Break, after which the Panthers have 30 games to try to salvage their season and sneak into the playoffs.
Now, Florida still has an uphill climb. The Panthers are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference’s final wild card spot, and Pittsburgh has three games in hand. Buffalo also has one point over Florida with four games in hand.
But an 8-5-2 month of January — a 15-game stretch that equates to a .600 points percentage — gives the Panthers an outside chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs with two-and-a-half months left in the regular season.
“We got ourselves back in the race,” Reinhart said. “This was a big one to get the momentum in the right direction.”
As for the game itself, start with the mistakes and redemption — and that means starting with Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett. The duo was directly responsible for Boston’s first two goals and both atoned for their errors by scoring goals of their own shortly after their miscues with each goal tying the game.
Montour’s came late in the first period, shortly after the Panthers killed off a four-minute Bruins power play. He sent an errant pass deep in the Panthers’ defensive zone straight to Boston’s Craig Smith, who was wide open in the slot. Smith’s wrist shot sailed past Lyon to give the Bruins (38-6-5) an early 1-0 lead.
Montour redeemed himself by re-directing a Barkov shot past Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman 8:55 into the second period to tie the game at 1-1. Montour has now logged at least one point in nine consecutive games, which is a franchise record for a defenseman. Barkov now has a career-long 11-game point streak.
Bennett’s mishap was more egregious.
The center was feet in front of the Panthers’ net late in the second period, trying to defend a Charlie Coyle saucer pass to the slot.
But Bennett whacked the puck toward his own net and past Lyon.
Own goal. 2-1 Bruins lead with 2:05 left in the second period. Bennett could only put his hands on his head in disappointment at that moment.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Bennett said. “You feel like you let the boys down a little bit. My whole focus was not think about it and do everything I could to get it back.”
His redemption came about 10 and a half minutes later when he fired a snap shot from the right circle for his 12th goal of the season to tie the game at 2-2 with 11:31 left in regulation.
But it was nearly all for naught.
David Pastrnak scored with 48.6 seconds left, getting a shot through traffic past Lyon to give Boston to a 3-2 lead.
The Panthers then pulled out a last-ditch effort in the waning seconds, going with an empty net and an extra attacker to try to tie the game and force overtime.
And with three seconds left in regulation, Barkov scooped up a loose puck after a battle on the boards and an Aaron Ekblad shot was blocked. His wrist shot from the left circle went into the net.
“It was electric on the bench,” Bennett said. “We went pretty nuts.”
Seventeen seconds later, they celebrated again after Reinhart’s overtime game-winner.
“There’s no quit in that group,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “They just stay in the fight and keep going.”
Lyon, meanwhile, stopped 37 of 40 shots he faced — including all 13 that came his way when the Bruins were on the power play.
Florida went 3-2-1 with Lyon in net over the past two weeks without Bobrovsky or Knight.
Another milestone for Barkov
With three points on Saturday, Barkov now has 600 points for his NHL career. He is 13 points behind Jonathan Huberdeau for the Panthers’ franchise points record.
Barkov also extended his career-long points streak to 11 games. In this stretch, Barkov has 17 points — 5 goals and 12 assists.