TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.
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Red-hot Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman will face his former team, the Ottawa Senators, on Sunday afternoon but it is not the only storyline in this battle between Atlantic Division rivals.
Both the host Panthers (5-5-3, 13 points) and the Senators (7-7-3, 17 points) will have a quick turnaround since they both played on Saturday night. In addition, Sunday’s contest is a couple hours earlier than usual — at 5 p.m. local time.
The Senators will also have to travel from Tampa Bay, where they staged an incredible comeback to beat the Lightning, 6-4. The Lightning own the best record in the Eastern Conference, even with that stunning loss.
Ottawa trailed 4-2 to start the third period, but those four consecutive goals reversed a recent trend. Up until Saturday, the Senators had lost seven of their past nine games.
Meanwhile, the Panthers earned their third straight win, defeating the New York Islanders 4-2.
Hoffman scored a goal, extending his points streak a career-best 11 games.
Florida captain Aleksander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal against the Islanders, coming through just nine seconds into a 4-on-3 Panthers power play.
“We talk a lot about our power play,” Barkov said, “And it’s been going well the past couple of games.”
Hoffman, who was Ottawa’s fifth-round pick in 2009, averaged 25 goals per season the past four years. But he was sent packing due to some ugly off-the-ice accusations — the wife of ex-teammate Erik Karlsson filed a protection order against Hoffman’s fiancée’ This was after the Karlssons received a large number of harassing messages, originating from fake social-media accounts.
Hoffman and his fiancée’ denied culpability, but the Senators decided to trade their winger.
Karlsson, the two-time winner of the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL’s top defenseman, was traded to the San Jose Sharks in September.
The trade left the Senators to regroup without Hoffman or Karlsson.
In the past few days, another Senators controversy surfaced as seven Ottawa players were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about their coaches.
Forward Matt Duchene, for example, said he had stopped listening to special-teams coach Martin Raymond three weeks ago.
Perhaps Saturday’s win can spark a Sens turnaround. Goalie Craig Anderson made 20 saves against Tampa Bay to improve his record to 7-5-3 this season.
Offensively, the Sens got one goal and two assists each from Duchene and Bobby Ryan. The Senators also converted on 2-of-4 power plays.
Ryan Dzingel scored his team-high eighth goal, Mark Stone got his seventh, Duchene and Colin White got their sixth, Bobby Ryan got his fifth and first-round rookie Brady Tkachuk was credited with his fourth.
As for the Panthers, despite a slow start, they have to be pleased with Hoffman, who has seven goals and five assists during his 11-game points streak, which is the longest such active run in the NHL.
Among Panthers players in team history, only Pavel Bure had a longer streak, but Hoffman could tie that record with points in each of his next two games.
Hoffman’s goal on Saturday, which was his seventh of the season, was the result of his backhand pass that found the back of the net after it deflected off of an Islanders player.
“It was a bit of puck luck, but it was a timely goal for us,” Hoffman said. “I just tried to whack it toward the net, but when things are going your way ”
Indeed, the Panthers’ three-game win streak has coincided with the return of goalie Roberto Luongo, who injured his right knee during the season-opener. He is 3-0-0 since returning, allowing a total of just five goals.
“We’re finding a pretty good rhythm,” Luongo said. “Heading into the third period, we have confidence we’re going to pull out the game.”