— Sports

Panthers rally past Predators 7-4, clinch playoff spot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A wild third-period comeback sent the Panthers back to the playoffs.

Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and three assists, and Florida rallied for a 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night to clinch a playoff berth.

Aleksander Barkov scored twice and had an assist for the Panthers. Anthony Duclair, Owen Tippett, and Frank Vatrano also scored, while Sam Bennett had three assists in Florida’s second win in three games.

“Awesome feeling, something we’ve been waiting for a long time, especially since I’ve been here,” Vatrano said. “We’ve been close many times. You know it feels good, delicious. Guys are happy. We’re excited.”

Ryan Ellis scored twice, and Luke Kunin and Tanner Jeannot also scored for the Predators, who had won three of four as they battle the Dallas Stars for the fourth and final Central Division playoff berth.

Trailing by a goal entering the third, Florida rallied on goals by Tippett at 4:57 and then Vatrano at 7:15 to complete the comeback. Huberdeau scored a pair of goals late in the third to end the four-goal period for the Panthers. “Obviously feeling good,” Huberdeau said. “I think it’s a big win, the big third period for us. And obviously, being in the playoff-clinching, it’s a plus.”

Ellis scored the game’s first goal at 6:07 of the opening period.

Ellis fired a slap shot from above the right faceoff circle that beat Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky high to the stick side. Ellis was aided by Kunin, who screened Bobrovsky from just outside of the crease.

“I don’t think that’s a game we’re very proud of,” Ellis said. “We’ve been moving in the right direction in a lot of games lately; tonight, I think we took a step back. I think this group obviously is disappointed with the way we played in front of our goaltender. He gave us a chance to win, but it didn’t come through.”

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