Vatrano’s second goal gives Panthers OT victory against Sharks

SAINT JOSEPH — Frank Vatran scored his second goal of the game 1:11 into overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Joe Thornton‘s return to SAP Center on Tuesday.

Thornton, who spent 15 seasons with the Sharks, was minus-1 in 10:03 of ice time after missing 13 games with an undisclosed injury. He had not played in San Jose since March 11, 2020, and last played as a visitor there March 21, 2003 when he was with the Boston Bruins.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. “I think he’s an incredible human. Obviously, an incredible hockey player, but I think it’s the off-ice stuff. He’s just special. I think he’s one of a kind. He’s an incredible, incredible guy. … The reception that he got and the video, it was great. You could ask Steven Spielberg to do a two-and-a-half-hour movie with him and nobody would get bored.”

Jonathan Huberdeau scored to extend his road point streak to nine games for the Panthers (41-13-6), who are 6-0-1 in their past seven games. Spencer Knight made 24 saves.

“I think we kept our composure,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said. “I really liked our game besides some of the things we were doing in the second period. We got a little carried away. We kept our emotions intact, and I thought we regrouped after two and had a great third period.”

Video: FLA@SJS: Vatrano wires home game-winning goal in OT

Logan Couture and Nicholas Meloche scored, and Thomas Hertl had two assists for the Sharks (26-25-8), who had won two straight. James Reimer made 31 saves after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

“We battled hard and played a pretty tight game for 40 minutes,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “We did enough good things to get a point. Could have easily had two, but that’s one of the better teams in the league.”

Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 8:19 of the first period on a power play when Hertl set him up from the side of the net. It was Couture’s 20th goal of the season.

Huberdeau tied it 1-1 at 11:21 with a shorthanded goal. The forward has scored 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in the streak.

“They can move and they can really zip the [puck],” Reimer said. “That’s a real solid team over there. I thought today we managed them in the zone pretty well and tried to keep [them] to the outside. They got going a bit, but I thought we handled them pretty well.”

Meloche gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead at 13:58 on a wrist shot from the right face-off circle before Vatrano tied it 2-2 at 3:29 of the third period.

“We get good pressure in the third and we always find a way to win hockey games,” Vatrano said. “We just stick to the game plan and it’s been working.”

Video: FLA@SJS: Vatrano slap-shots home game-tying goal

Mason Marching appeared to score at 8:52 but the Sharks challenged for goalie interference. The goal was overturned when video review determined Marchment caused San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to contact Reimer prior to the goal.

“I felt like I was interfered with when it happened live, and when I saw the replay I saw their guy knocked our guy into my pad, which pushed the puck into the net,” Reimer said. “To me, it’s pretty straightforward.”

NOTES: Couture has scored at least 20 goals nine times in 13 NHL seasons. … Knight started on short notice for Sergei Bobrovsky, who didn’t feel well earlier in the day. … Hertl has scored five points (two goals, three assists) in a three-game point streak. …Sharks forward John Leonard was plus-1 in 11:45 in his first game since Nov. 11. He was recalled from San Jose of the American Hockey League on Monday. … The Panthers are 2-0-0 on their seven-game road trip. …Florida center Alexander Barkov had his five-game point/assist streak end. He scored 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in the run.

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