Having already set a positive tone for a key five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Florida Panthers will now take their new-found momentum to Southern California for a matchup with the Anaheim Ducks.
It will be the first game in a back-to-back set for the Panthers, who then make the drive toLos Angeles for a matchup Thursday against the Kings.
The Panthers started the trip Monday with a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks that helped them stay within striking distance of the wild-card leaders in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers never trailed against the Sharks, and they used a three-goal third period to close out the victory.
"It was a big game for us," said goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, according to nhl.com, after making 29 saves.
The victory came after the Panthers lost six of their previous seven games (1-5-1), including defeats in all four home games during that stretch. Getting back to the form that saw them win six consecutive games heading into the All-Star break is the goal, but doing so on a trip that also includes stops at Vegas and Arizona will be challenging.
"We came out and got a big win to start the trip," said Florida's Colton Sceviour, according to nhl.com, after scoring the first of the team's three third-period goals on Monday. "Now, let's keep it going."
The Panthers already have a victory over the Ducks this season, taking a 5-4 decision in overtime at home on Nov. 21. Florida scored five consecutive goals to overcome Anaheim's 4-0, second-period lead.
Brett Connolly scored the first two Panthers goals in that game to start the momentum, and Aaron Ekblad scored two of the next three, including the game-winner 22 seconds into the extra period.
If the Ducks forgot about that collapse, it's only because they are coming off their latest failure to hold a multiple-goal lead.
Anaheim held a 3-1 lead in the third period Monday against the Calgary Flames, only to give up five goals in the final 15:14 to fall 6-4. The Ducks were on their way to recording a point in a seventh consecutive road game before the contest got away from them.
"We know, in this group, we can battle to the end in every game," said the Ducks' Nicolas Deslauriers, according to nhl.com. His goal early in the third period put Anaheim up 3-1. "We need to fix the little mistakes because we get dinged on them every time. Just like (today). We played a good game, but in the third, they capitalized on every chance."
The Ducks' past two defeats have come against the Flames over the last week by a combined score of 12-4. In between, though, Anaheim played one of its better games of the season in a 5-1 road victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Wednesday game is the opener of a six-game homestand for the Ducks, who are 12-11-3 in their own building this season. They are 5-3-2 over the past 10 games while the Panthers are 3-6-1 over the same stretch.
--Field Level Media