Frank Vatrano scored a power-play goal with 1:51 left in overtime, and the Florida Panthers beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Aleksander Barkov and Radko Gudas scored in regulation, and Chris Driedger made 24 saves for the Panthers, who snapped a three-game losing streak and matched Tampa Bay and Carolina with 58 points atop the Central Division.
Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski scored, and Anton Khudobin stopped 28 shots for the Stars, who are seven points out of the division’s last playoff spot with 15 games remaining after playing in last season’s Stanley Cup Final.
Vatrano scored his fifth game-winning goal of the season, his third in overtime, on a slap shot from the right circle with six seconds left in a tripping penalty on Jamie Benn.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
“It’s huge, especially late in the season when we’re trying to go up in the standings,” Vatrano said. “Anytime you score a goal it’s unbelievable.”
“He does have the flair for the big – but he does make some nice shots,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said.
Barkov opened the scoring from close range, slipping the puck through Khudobin’s pads at 11:50 of the first period for his team-high 18th goal of the season. Only 52 seconds later, Roberson tied the score by lifting the puck over Driedger from the low slot.
Gudas’ goal on a shot from the right point deflected off the stick of Dallas forward Rhett Gardner between the circles and caught the bottom of the crossbar 2:45 into the second period for the physical defenseman’s first goal since January 2020 with Washington.
“Glad I finally got one through,” Gudas said. “I got a little lucky there.”
Pavelski scored his team-high 16th, his first in 11 games, at 8:26 of the third period to tie the score at 2-2.
“You’ve got to make your own luck at times,” Pavelski said.
SHARING THE WEALTH IN NET
Driedger, Florida’s backup to Sergei Bobrovsky, came into play seventh in the NHL with a 2.05 goals-against average and has alternated starts in recent weeks. The highlight of his night came midway through the third period, when he sprawled backward to make a stop with his stick on the goal line after a rebound caromed back off the skate of Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman.
“It kind of pinballed around in front of me a little bit,” Driedger said. “You just go straight instinct mode. Fortunately, I was just able to catch it enough with the hook of my blade.”
The Stars are 1-6 in overtime games, two losses to Florida, and 1-6 in shootouts.
“We were right there,” Pavelski said. “They’re tight games. We’ve got to find a way to get that extra point.”
WISH YOU WERE HERE
The Stars played for the first time in six games without center Roope Hintz, second on the team with 13 goals and 32 points playing only 29 games while dealing most of the season with a nagging lower body injury.
Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe, with 17 goals, missed his first game of the season with an upper body injury.
Robertson, with 12 goals and 29 points, went into play tied for second in the NHL among rookies in goals and second in points. … Barkov has five goals and seven points in six games after missing six games with a lower body injury. … Florida defenseman Markus Nutivaara assisted on Barkov’s goal, his first point since Feb. 4. … Benn had two assists. … Defenseman Sami Vatanen played his first game for Dallas after being claimed off waivers from New Jersey on Monday, on the third pairing plus some power play time.
Panthers: Visit Tampa Bay on Thursday for the fifth of six straight road games.
Stars: Begin a two-game home series vs. Columbus on Thursday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports