NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Florida Panthers have proven they know how to score. Against Nashville, they showed they can play a little defense as well.
Even with a rookie goaltender in net.
Anton Lundell scored the winning goal in the second period, and the Panthers beat the Predators 4-1 Saturday night for their seventh straight victory.
”It was huge for us,” Lundell said. ”We’ve been letting in a lot of goals the last (few) weeks … We need to defend even better.”
Jonathan Huberdeau and Gustav Forsling scored empty-net goals 17 seconds apart, Carter Verhaeghe also had a goal and Forsling had an assist as Florida split the season series with Nashville.
Rookie goalie Spencer Knight made 24 saves for a victory in his fourth straight appearance.
”My D really helped me out and the forwards did a great job coming back,” Knight said. ”I think it is a team win. Guys were really blocking shots.”
Knight made a flurry of saves after Nashville pulled goalie Juuse Saros with 2:08 remaining until Huberdeau scored from the high slot with 1:07 left. Saros went to the net for the faceoff, then skated off seconds before Forsling added his empty-netter.
With the victory, the Panthers padded their margin atop the Eastern Conference and in the Atlantic Division. They also added another victory to the club record with No. 51 of the season.
Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette liked how his Panthers managed the game, even if their energy level wasn’t that high after a 4-3 comeback win Friday night over Buffalo.
”But we were intelligent enough to make sure that we stayed in layers, we stayed connected,” Brunette said. ”We picked and (chose) our time to make sure we won certain battles around the boards and blocked shots. So, we did a lot of good things.”
Ryan Johansen scored a goal as the Predators snapped a two-game winning streak. Nashville still has a two-point lead over Dallas, a 3-1 loser to the Devils earlier Saturday, for the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Nashville coach John Hynes made clear he wasn’t happy with how his Predators played, especially with only five shots on goal in the third.
”I thought we were just average, and we’re not a team that can play average and win,” Hynes said.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when Verhaeghe beat Saros with a snap shot from the left circle at 3:43 of the first period. Nashville tied it at 5:52 with a wrister in front from Johansen, his fifth goal in three games.
The Predators scored early in the second with Forsberg hitting a post and later stopped by Knight on a backhand try. Florida defenseman Brandon Montour hit a post midway through the period.
Lundell put Florida up 2-1 at 15:16 of the second after skating up the left boards and skating toward the goal, his wrister buzzing past Saros’ head into the far net for his 16th of the season.
Nashville had a big opportunity to tie it up with 8:38 left. Knight came out past the circles to handle a puck, but Predators captain Roman Josi, who set the franchise single-season scoring mark in the last game, missed the wide-open net, sending the puck off the side. Knight then stopped Josi’s slap shot a few seconds later.
Florida won for the sixth time in seven road games, giving the Panthers 21 wins away from home. They improved to 21-9-6, one off the franchise record of 22 set in 2015-16. This victory tied the franchise record of 48 points set in that season.
The Panthers also set a franchise record for goals scored on the road with 128, topping the mark of 126 set in 2018-19. They also improved to 8-2-0 in their last 10 games in Nashville.
Florida forward Sam Reinhart had an assist on Lundell’s goal, giving him six points in three games. Reinhart has three goals and three assists in that span. Huberdeau extended his points streak to 11 games with his late goal. He now has eight goals and 12 assists.
Panthers: Host Anaheim on Tuesday night.
Predators: Visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.
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