Florida Panthers rally to top Nashville Predators, clinch playoff berth

Apr 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) makes a save with traffic from Florida Panthers center Aleksi Heponiemi (20) Florida Panthers defenseman Kevin Connauton (44) and Nashville Predators defenseman Ben Harpur (17) during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers rallied from a third-period deficit to beat the host Nashville Predators 7-4 and clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday night.

The Panthers (32-14-5, 69 points) came into the third period trailing Nashville (27-22-2, 56 points) by a goal but scored four goals in the final period with Jonathan Huberdeau getting two of them.

Florida outshot Nashville 55-30 to get a measure of revenge against the Predators, who prevented the Panthers from clinching their sixth playoff appearance with a 4-1 win on Monday.

Nashville is trying to hold off Dallas for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the Central Division, currently holding a two-point lead over the Stars. Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay have all clinched.

The Predators got the scoring going early, getting a goal from a long Ryan Ellis shot at 6:07 of the first period. Ellis later gave Nashville a 4-3 lead with 22.9 seconds left in the second.

After Ellis’ first goal, the Panthers took aim at goalie Juuse Saros. Florida ended up outshooting Nashville 20-8 in the opening period and had a 42-21 advantage after three.

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov scored two goals, his first a power-play goal that tied the score at 1-1 at 8:28 of the first. He later tied it at 3-3 with a wrist shot at 17:32 of the second.

Florida took its first lead on a power-play goal by Anthony Duclair at 2:56 of the second. Nashville then got the next two goals in the period from Luke Kunin (6:50) and Tanner Jeannot (12:40).

The Panthers tied the score again five minutes into the third period when Owen Tippett banged a loose puck past Saros on Florida’s 47th shot on goal of the night.

Frank Vatrano gave Florida the lead for good at 7:15 of the third when he one-timed a pass from Alex Wennberg.

Huberdeau then tacked on his two goals as the Panthers tied a franchise record with 55 shots on goal. He ended with five points in the game.

Before the third period started, Florida replaced starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (17 saves on 21 shots) with rookie Spencer Knight, the former Boston College star who led Team USA to Gold at World Juniors.

Knight, who made his NHL debut last week against Columbus, ended up making nine saves in his first relief appearance. He is now 2-0 in his young NHL career.

–Field Level Media