SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)Kevin Lankinen made 30 saves and the Nashville Predators put a dent in the playoff hopes of the Florida Panthers with a 2-1 win Thursday night.
Matt Duchene and John Leonard each scored for Nashville, which also beat Florida 7-3 at home on Feb. 18. The Predators have won four of their last five games overall despite trading away a number of their key players before the NHL trade deadline which comes Friday.
“They have done a really good job, we are playing with some swagger in our game,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “Guys are making some plays, feeling confident with the puck. We are playing really fast. Throughout the lineup, the competitive level and the work ethic is at a standard you need to have a chance to win every night.”
Brandon Montour got the lone goal for the Panthers, who are in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt. Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves.
The Predators took a 2-0 lead going into the second period.
Duchene gave Nashville the lead by teeing off on a power-play feed from rookie Luke Evangelista at 13:40 of the period. It was the first NHL point for Evangelista, who made his debut with Nashville on Tuesday.
With 10.2 seconds remaining, Leonard scored on a loose puck in front of the net.
“It was awesome finding a way to win with a lot of saves and some big shot blocks as well,’’ said Leonard, who made his Nashville debut after being recalled from the AHL. “It was a full-team effort and a lot of fun.”
The Panthers cut into the deficit at 3:21 of the second when Ryan Lomberg drove to the net, feeding Montour with a nice backhanded cross-ice pass.
Nashville outshot the Panthers 12-7 in the opening period, but watched Florida outshoot them in the final two.
Florida has lost three of its past five – including two to the Predators.
“It is tough when you only get one. It is tough to win games like that,” Montour said. “We got away from our game and lost two points. We were a little sleepy, trying to make pretty plays. Maybe we took them a little for granted.”
NOTES: Defenseman Tyson Barrie, who came to Nashville in the Mattias Ekholm trade with Edmonton on Tuesday, made his debut with the Predators. … Florida was again without its top two centers as Alexander Barkov missed his third consecutive game and Sam Bennett was out for his sixth. … Roberto Luongo, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, was one of Florida’s goalies at practice on Wednesday. Luongo played his final game with the Panthers in 2019 and is a member of their front office.
UP NEXT Predators: Visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. Panthers: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
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