Vincent Trocheck leads balanced Florida Panthers attack over Nashville Predators

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
Vincent Trocheck leads balanced Florida Panthers attack over Nashville Predators
Florida Panthers' Derek Mackenzie pumps his fist. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bedeviled by injuries and a dropoff in some individual performances, the Florida Panthers entered Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators ranked only 26th in the NHL in scoring.

But center Vincent Trocheck said the Panthers now bear little resemblance to the team it has been for most of the season.


"When you have two big goal scorers out, it has an effect as to how many goals you score in a game," Trocheck said, referring to Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. "Now that we have those guys back, it lets us fill in our roles and now we don't have to focus on one or two lines for all our scoring."

A fully stocked Florida team strafed Nashville for a season-high output in a 7-4 win at Bridgestone Arena. Trocheck scored twice and five other players notched goals as the Panthers prevailed for the fourth time in five games.


Eleven different skaters joined in on the scoring fun for Florida, including 44-year old Jaromir Jagr, whose deflection of Keith Yandle's point shot at 4:24 of the first period gave him 10 goals for the season and 1,899 points in his legendary career.

Trocheck dedicated his performance to Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings who died Friday at age 87. Trocheck's family moved to Detroit when he was 13 and he played for the amateur teams sponsored by Ilitch, winning two scoring titles in their league.

"He was a big part of my career and helped me out a lot along the way," Trocheck said of Ilitch. "He was a good guy, one of the most successful owners of all time. It was a sad day."

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Huberdeau, playing just his third game of the season after missing the first 51 with an Achilles' tendon injury, picked up a goal and two assists. His wrister at 2:30 of the third period cut off any realistic hopes of a Predators' comeback, giving the Panthers (24-20-10) a 6-3 advantage.

The game was tied 2-2 after Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson scored the first of his three goals at 6:56 of the second period before Florida took command. Nick Bjugstad answered Arvidsson's marker 28 seconds later by roofing a backhander to the right corner for his second goal of the season.


Trocheck pounced on a giveaway at center ice at 7:53, beating Pekka Rinne (21-15-6) for a 4-2 lead and ending Rinne's day. After entering the game with a 1.83 goals-against average and .939 save percentage since Jan. 3, Rinne was pulled for Juuse Saros with just 12 saves on 16 shots.

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That switch did no good, as Saros was beaten on his first shot, Barkov stickhandling to the goalmouth and sliding a wrister into the net at 9:53 for a 5-2 lead.

"It's nice to get the lines rolling and getting the support," Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. "They were controlling the puck throughout the zone."

While Florida started a critical five-game road trip with an emphatic bang, the Predators (26-21-8) opened a back-to-back homestand with an equally emphatic thud. They turned the puck over 11 times and took six minor penalties in arguably their worst defensive showing of the season.

"It was gross," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "There was no passion, no effort. We didn't play with any purpose. The actions that we gave were going to give us the results that we got. It's that simple."


Arvidsson was the lone individual star for the Predators, drawing them within 5-3 on a shorthanded marker at 17:01 of the second period and completing his first hat trick at 18:48 of the third by deflecting Yannick Weber's slapper.

Roman Josi also scored for Nashville, while Saros stopped 18 of 20 shots in relief of Rinne.

Luongo (15-14-6) made 26 saves for the Panthers, who also got a power-play tally from Jussi Jokinen at 5:52 of the second period as they tallied five goals or more in a game for just the fourth time this season.

NOTES: Coming into Saturday's game, Florida hasn't outshot Nashville in each of its 12 visits. The Predators have recorded more shots in the prior 11 games after matching the Panthers' 26 shots in their first-ever home game in October 1998. ... Nashville D P.K. Subban needs two points to reach 300 in his career. ... Florida scratched C Greg McKegg and D Jakub Kindl. ... Predators scratches were D Anthony Bitetto, C Colton Sissons and D Brad Hunt.

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