Trocheck makes return, helps Panthers top Maple Leafs
After spending the past two months recovering from a fractured ankle, Vincent Trocheck finally made his return to the ice.
The All-Star forward made his first appearance since Nov. 11 and delivered an assist to help the Florida Panthers top the Maple Leafs 3-1, snapping a seven-game losing streak. Trocheck played 18 minutes on 24 shifts in his return.
“I’ve been pushing for a while,” Trocheck said. “The day [the injury] happened, I gave them a date. I said Jan. 21 was the day I was going to come back. They told me I was full of [expletive].”
“We have an unbelievable training staff and I owe it all to them.”
Panthers coach Bob Boughner initially said Thursday that the standout center wouldn’t return until after the All-Star Break, but reversed course during Friday’s morning skate, saying Trocheck would be a game-time decision.
When starting lineups were announced on the Jumbotron, Trocheck’s name was front and center, drawing a loud ovation from the home crowd.
On Friday night, the Panthers continued their trend of stumbling out of the gate at the BB&T Center. For the fourth straight home game, Florida surrendered a goal within the first two minutes. Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey rocketed a left-handed slap shot past Roberto Luongo to give the visitors a 1-0 lead just 1:49 into the game.
The Panthers evened up the game less than eight minutes later after Mike Hoffman redirected a Keith Yandle slap shot into the net to tie the game 1-1. For Hoffman, it was his 23rd goal of the season and eighth in his past 13 games.
Later in the first period, Florida took its first lead of the game, thanks in part to Trocheck. The 25-year-old set up Mike Matheson for the go-ahead goal as Trocheck notched his first point in over two months.
“I thought [Trocheck] was our best player the first period,” Boughner said. “You could tell he was fresh. He was excited the second goal. But more importantly, he puts everyone else back where they belong in their proper spots.”
“Everything about having him back actually worked out better than I thought it would.”
After a scoreless second period and nearly scoreless third, Panthers forward Frank Vatrano scored an empty-net goal with just under two minutes to secure the victory.
For the Panthers, it marked their first win in 2019 after starting the new year 0-5-2.
Florida will have a quick turnaround as it travels to face Nashville on Saturday night.
Author: Wells Dusenbury