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LOS ANGELES (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida Panthers know in order to make the playoffs, they basically have to win every game for rest of the season.
So far, so good.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal with 1:56 remaining, Evgenii Dadonov scored twice, and the Florida Panthers beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Saturday for their fourth straight win.
Just before warmups, Huberdeau pulled an imaginary monkey off Dadonov’s back, hoping to help his teammate get in the right frame of mind to end a season-high goal drought of nine games. Clearly, it worked.
Rookie goaltender Sam Montembeault made 24 saves to win his fourth consecutive start for the Panthers, who are eight points behind Columbus for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot with 11 games remaining.
“We’re not dead yet, and we can make things interesting,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “We just got to keep on winning, and tomorrow is another big day for us.”
Mike Hoffman had a power-play goal, and Aleksander Barkov had three assists to extend his streak to five games for the Panthers.
Anze Kopiar and Dustin Brown each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who have lost 15 of 17. Brendan Leipsic also scored and Jonathan Quick made 31 saves.
Huberdeau had his shot at the near post sneak in under Quick’s skate at 18:04 after Dadonov scored from the slot on a drop pass from Huberdeau with 6:13 left in the third period to tie it at 3-3.
The Kings challenged Huberdeau’s 23rd goal of the season for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice was upheld.
Huberdeau got his fifth goal in the past five games, and the assist was his 53rd this season to tie Viktor Kozlov for most in a season by a Panther. But Huberdeau was happier with the role Dadonov played in giving the Panthers a chance to get the winner.
“He’s been playing really, really well all the time,” Huberdeau said. “Just (the) puck hasn’t been finding the way in, and this time he scored two crucial goals for us to win the game.”
Dadonov’s recent struggles were all the more surprising given how the Panthers have produced on offense during their winning streak, scoring 16 goals in the first three games.
Barkov had been the hottest player for Florida, and he kept up that pace by getting the three assists he needed for 200 in his NHL career. He has two goals and 11 assists in his past five games.
Barkov also became the third Panthers player with at least 80 points in a season and is up to a career-high 81.
Kopitar put the Kings ahead 3-2 at 9:44 after Leipsic tied the game 2-2 1:05 into the third. Jeff Carter got his 700th point with the primary assist on Leipsic’s seventh goal, but let loose his frustration after the Kings could not close out the game.
“It’s the same story every (expletive) game here. Get a lead, give a lead up,” Carter said. “So we can sit here and talk about it, but we’ve been talking about it for a while now.”
NOTES: Montembeault is 4-0-1 in five starts as a rookie. … Brown scored his 93rd career power-play goal, passing Rob Blake for fifth-most in team history. … Kopitar got his 20th goal, a mark he has reached in 10 of his 13 seasons with the Kings. He also reached 30 assists for the 13th straight season.
Panthers: Continue their four-game road trip at Anaheim on Sunday night.
Kings: Host Winnipeg on Monday night.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)