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RECAP: Noel Acciari’s hat trick pushes Florida Panthers past Nashville Predators

Mar 6, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Panthers center Noel Acciari (55) celebrates with center Frank Vatrano (77) after a second period goal against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Panthers center Noel Acciari (55) celebrates with center Frank Vatrano (77) after a second period goal against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Noel Acciari posted a hat trick with his first three goals of the season and the Florida Panthers shook off a slow start in Nashville to earn a 6-2 win over the Predators on Saturday afternoon.

Playing on the fourth line, Acciari — who had back-to-back hat tricks in December 2019 — scored the third with 3:02 left in the game for the final margin.

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Aaron Ekblad and Frank Vatrano each netted a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Florida, which improved to 8-1-1 on the road. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (8-2-2) stopped 28 of 30 shots.

Forward Grigori Denisenko — Florida’s first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2018 draft — made his NHL debut on the club’s third line by registering two shots and 12:59 of ice time.

Eeli Tolvanen and Viktor Arvidsson tallied for the Predators, and Pekka Rinne allowed six goals on 32 shots.

First-line forward Matt Duchene (lower body) was placed on injured reserve before the game and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks.

Tolvanen blasted in his fourth goal of the season just seven seconds into Nashville’s first man advantage, and the home side outshot Florida 10-0 in the first 10 minutes.

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But Ekblad gloved a pass, skated in and netted his ninth by beating Rinne with a wrister high on the glove side with 13 seconds left in the period to even the contest.

Just 1:15 into the second, Huberdeau scored after taking a stretch pass from Patric Hornqvist for a breakaway, slowing down on Rinne and notching his 10th of the season after some slick stickwork in front of the Finnish goalie.

Huberdeau’s goal was his fifth in four games against Nashville and moved him into sole possession of third place in franchise history with 158 goals, breaking a tie with Scott Mellanby.

Seventeen seconds after Nashville’s second power play ended, Acciari made it 3-1 by keeping the puck and burying his first goal under the bar to finish off a two-on-one at 11:17.

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From the red line with under two minutes left, Keith Yandle faked a pass around the boards and fired a long shot on Rinne. The puck bounced away from the goalie, far enough away for Acciari to swoop in and backhand in his second at 18:46.

Arvidsson scored his third just 19 seconds into the third, but Bobrovsky later stopped a breakaway by Tolvanen. On the rush going the other way, Aleksander Barkov stole the puck from Mikael Granlund, and dropped it back to Vatrano for his goal at 14:56 for a 5-2 lead.

–Field Level Media