Red-hot Florida stretches win streak to nine
PANTHERS 2, WILD 1
sunrise, fla.» Jaromir Jagr scored two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, and Al Montoya made 38 saves as the streaking Florida Panthers beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Sunday.
The victory was the ninth in a row for Florida and seventh straight at home, each a franchise record. The nine-game winning streak ties Montreal, Washington and the New York Rangers for the longest in the NHL this season.
Dmitry Kulikov had two assists for the Panthers (23-12-4). Jonathan Huberdeau and Brandon Pirri also contributed assists.
Jagr, 43, has 735 goals in his career — just six behind Brett Hull for third place in NHL history.
Jason Zucker scored for Minnesota (20-11-7), assisted by Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter. Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves.
With the score 1-1 in the third period, Jagr took a long diagonal pass along the right boards from Pirri after Minnesota was caught with three players behind Florida’s goal. Jagr kept control of the puck, weaved to the high slot and whistled a shot past Dubnyk for his team-leading 13th goal.
Florida’s 14-3-0 run entering the game was powered by a defense that was among the NHL’s stingiest, allowing just 28 goals in the previous 17 games.
However, Jagr and the offense put Florida in front early.
Kulikov set up Jagr in the first period by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and sending a pass to the right wing. Jagr slipped a backhander that found its way between Dubnyk’s legs.
The goal, just 27 seconds into the game, was Florida’s fastest this season, breaking the mark of 51 seconds, also on a goal by Jagr on Dec. 10 against Washington.
Just as Florida did in the first period, Minnesota scored in the opening minute of the second period to tie it.
Zucker took a pass from Koivu and tried to stuff it past Montoya. Zucker then found his rebound and poked it in for his 10th goal just 48 seconds into the period.
Florida forward Nick Bjugstad, the club’s top goal scorer last season and points producer two years ago, returned to the Panthers’ lineup after missing 15 games.
The former University of Minnesota star centered a line with Pirri and Logan Shaw.
With goaltender Darcy Kuemper (concussion) on injured reserve, Niklas Backstrom again served as Dubnyk’s backup. The 37-year-old Backstrom hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 13, 2015.
Florida captain Willie Mitchell, 38, played in the 900th game of his NHL career.