NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Another strong third period provided a satisfying conclusion to a three-game road trip for coach Joel Quenneville and the Florida Panthers.
They earned points in the first two stops against the Sabres and Islanders, needing third-period rallies to force overtime before losing in a shootout.
On Monday, they came from behind again in the third period with Mackenzie Weegar scoring the tying goal and setting up Noel Acciari for the go-ahead tally as the Panthers rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the winless New Jersey Devils 6-4 on Monday.
“It turned out to be a good trip for us and a lot of positive things in the third period.” Quenneville said. “We might have played our best period (of the season) in the third.”
And the Devils played one of their worst, falling to 0-4-2 before a disgruntled holiday crowd at the Prudential Center.
“No one sees that coming,” Taylor Hall, one of the Devils goal scorers, said of the struggle to win a game. “Hockey’s weird that way. You can have a lot of talk before the year, and a lot of positivity and a great training camp like we had, and you come out and start the way that we have. Guys like myself aren’t feeling as good about their game as they would want, so it’s disheartening for sure.”
For Florida, Brett Connolly scored twice, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dandonov also had goals as the Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17 shots as he improved his career mark against the Devils to 17-5-1.
Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher also scored for the Devils. Cory Schneider made 28 saves.
It is the Devils’ worst start to a season since beginning 2013-14 with seven straight losses (0-4-3).
Weegar scored 30 seconds into the third as the Panthers tied the score at 4-4 with a point shot through traffic.
“Getting that goal right away, we carried that moment the rest of the way,” Weegar said. “We just kept bringing it to them. We ended up getting the two points that we needed.”
It was the third time in the game a goal was scored on the opening shift of a period.
Acciari then gave the Panthers their first lead at 5-4, deflecting home Weegar’s point shot at 7:30. Dadonov added a power-play goal 15:32.
Zacha set up both first-period goals as the Devils regrouped to take a 2-1 lead.
New Jersey was rocked as Florida struck only 16 seconds in as Huberdeau converted a backhand no-look feed from Dadonov.
Hall, taking a drop pass from Zacha, pulled New Jersey even at 2:28 with a blast from the top of the right circle.
Bratt gave the Devils the lead at 19:13 as Zacha fed him the puck from the left boards. Bratt skated toward the slot to whip a backhand by Bobrovsky.
The Devils expanded the lead to 4-1 early in the second as Butcher and Zacha scored 36 seconds apart.
Butcher drilled a wrister from the left point 32 seconds into the period and Zacha followed with a deflection in front following Hall’s pass.
Connolly scored the next two goals in the period to put the Panthers back in the contest.
He beat Schneider from the high slot at 9:50. Connolly closed out the scoring in the period with 7.5 seconds remaining as he flicked a shot under the crossbar.
The momentum had shifted, and the Devils never recovered.
“You just coach them and you go in and you’re winning or losing, your job is to make sure that you focus on helping the group get better and that’s what we’ve done and it doesn’t change and never has changed in any year I’ve coached,” Devils coach John Hynes said of the mounting pressure on him to turn the team around.
NOTES: The worst start in Devils franchise history was 0-8-1 in 1974-75 when they were the Kansas City Scouts. … Panthers D Keith Yandle played in his league-leading 803rd consecutive game. … The game kicked off a season-high six game homestand for the Devils. They don’t hit the road again until Nov. 2 at Carolina. … Devils C Nico Hischier did not return for the second period. The team did not offer a medical update.
Panthers: Host Colorado on Friday night.
Devils: Host New York Rangers on Thursday night.
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