This player’s hat trick helps Panthers pick up valuable point in playoff chase

The Florida Panthers earned a valuable point on Tuesday, but lost ground in their chase for a playoff spot.

Nick Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick and Aleksander Barkov had three assists in Florida’s 5-4 overtime loss to in-state

The Florida Panthers earned a valuable point on Tuesday, but lost ground in their chase for a playoff spot.

Nick Bjugstad recorded his first career hat trick and Aleksander Barkov had three assists in Florida’s 5-4 overtime loss to in-state rival Tampa Bay. Vincent Trochek’s third-period power play goal provided the Panthers the chance to earn the point.

While Florida saw its six-game winning streak snapped the Panthers do have points in seven consecutive games. Florida fell two points back of Columbus for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Panthers hold three games in hand on the Blue Jackets.

Robert Luongo finished with 28 saves in the loss.

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1. Top line dominant, again: The Florida top line with Evgenii Dadonov, Barkov and Bjugstad continues to lead the Panthers charge late in the season. The trio combined for three goals and seven points to go with a plus-seven rating and gave Tampa Bay matchup issues all night. The three also combined for 14 shots on goal while Barkov extended his scoring streak to seven games, with five goals and 13 points in that span. Dadonov and Bjugstad each have points in four consecutive games.

Bjugstad “was monster, driving pucks to the net, carrying guys on his back,’’ Florida head coach Bob Boughner said. “Since I’ve been here that’s the best game I’ve seen Nick play. We needed a performance like that and down the stretch here we are going to need different guys step up … and tonight he was that guy.’’

Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) celebrates in front of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, (88), of Russia, after scoring during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning won the game 4-3 in overtime.
Chris O’Meara AP

2. Comback effort: Florida fell behind three times by two goals, trailing 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 before tying the game early in the third period to earn the point for getting the game to overtime. The Panthers have been one of the better comeback teams this season, improving to 6-20-4 on the year when trailing entering the third period. The 16 points earned when trailing after two periods is tied with New Jersey for the most of any team in the league.

“It’s a resilient group and my message (after two) was good teams find ways to scrape a point or two out of buildings like this when things aren’t going your way,’’ Florida head coach Bob Boughner said. “Let’s keep our heads up, play like it’s 0-0 and go after them.’’

3. Power play strikes again: The Panthers’ power play continues to find ways to produce and did so at a key time in the game on Tuesday. Though Florida had just two chances, it was Vincent Trocheck’s power play goal early in the third period that pulled the Panthers in to a tie and eventually send the game to overtime. Florida has scored 16 power play goals in the past 16 games while riding along at a 28.1 percent success rate in that time.

4. Costly coverage: The Panthers put themselves in to an early hole with some misguided play with the puck. On Tampa Bay’s first goal, Yanni Gourde was left alone at the front of the net after a point shot hit the end boards right to Gourde, who caught Luongo at the wrong side of the net. On the second Tampa Bay goal, Mark Pysyk left a puck behind his own net but was unaware of Gourde, who fed J.T. Miller who scored on backhander. The Lightning scored the third goal was Miller pinned Mike Matheson in to the boards to take the puck away as Gourde came around the back of the net and wheeled to the right circle and beat Luongo with a wrist shot.

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5. Shot clock: Florida finished the game with 49 shots on goal marking the 17th time this season the Panthers have reached the 40-shot mark. The 49 shots are the second most in a single game this season for Florida, three short of the 52 against Anaheim on Nov. 19. The Panthers, which also recorded a 48-shot night against Tampa Bay in the second game of the season, had 14-or-more shots on goal in each of the three regulation periods.

Florida Panthers center Connor Brickley (23) tries to stuff the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, (88), of Russia, as defenseman Victor Hedman, (77), of Sweden, defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Tampa, Fla.
Chris O’Meara AP

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