Complete – March 31, 2016 – 7:30 PM ET – BB&T; Center, Sunrise, Florida – Attendance: 15,803 – Duration: 2 Hours, 34 Minutes
Linesman #92 Mark Shewchyk
Linesman #66 Darren Gibbs
Referee #40 Steve Kozari
Referee #8 Dave Jackson
Skater Stats
LWReid Boucher00000-1018:44
LWJoseph Blandisi000000016:59
LWBlake Pietila210000011:37
LWBobby Farnham00000-108:29
LWTuomo Ruutu00000000:00
CTravis Zajac10000-1023:13
CAdam Henrique00100-1019:23
CSergey Kalinin100001015:03
CStephen Gionta00000-1210:05
CTyler Kennedy20000009:17
CJacob Josefson00000000:00
RWKyle Palmieri90000-1023:30
RWDevante Smith-Pelly301000014:08
RWMichael Sislo310101013:57
RWJordin Tootoo00000000:00
DAndy Greene10000-1023:17
DAdam Larsson00000-1220:18
DDamon Severson10000-1219:44
DDavid Warsofsky10000-1016:48
DJohn Moore10000-1015:56
DSeth Helgeson000000013:00
DDavid Schlemko00000000:00
DVojtech Mozik00000000:00
DJon Merrill00000000:00
Skater Stats
LWJonathan Huberdeau520003018:44
LWJussi Jokinen10000-1015:48
LWTeddy Purcell100000011:50
LWShawn Thornton40100107:54
LWGarrett Wilson00000000:00
CAleksander Barkov610001020:28
CDerek MacKenzie200000014:45
CNick Bjugstad100000013:30
CRocco Grimaldi100001011:51
CQuinton Howden10000-1010:57
CVincent Trocheck00000000:00
CGreg McKegg00000000:00
RWJaromir Jagr302002018:44
RWReilly Smith100000018:27
RWJiri Hudler200000211:27
RWLogan Shaw00000000:00
DErik Gudbranson10000-1021:36
DBrian Campbell201002220:50
DDmitry Kulikov100001219:23
DSteven Kampfer200001215:31
DJakub Kindl300001015:11
DAlex Petrovic00000000:00
Goalie Stats
GKeith Kinkaid4033792.5058:33
GCory Schneider00000:00
Goalie Stats
GAl Montoya2522392.0059:57
GRoberto Luongo00000:00
Period 1
Penalty on Brian Campbell: 2 minutes for Interference
Penalty on Adam Larsson: 2 minutes for Hooking
Penalty on Stephen Gionta: 2 minutes for Hooking
Penalty on Jiri Hudler: 2 minutes for Holding the stick
Goal scored by Michael Sislo (Power Play)
Penalty on Damon Severson: 2 minutes for High sticking
Period 2
Goal scored by Jonathan Huberdeau
Assisted by: Shawn Thornton
Penalty on Bench: 2 minutes for Too many men on ice
Period 3
Penalty on Dmitry Kulikov: 2 minutes for Slashing
Penalty on Bench: 2 minutes for Objects on Ice
Goal scored by Jonathan Huberdeau
Assisted by: Jaromir Jagr and Brian Campbell
Penalty on Steven Kampfer: 2 minutes for Tripping
Goal scored by Aleksander Barkov
Assisted by: Jaromir Jagr
Penalty on Bench: 2 minutes for Objects on Ice
Goal scored by Blake Pietila
Panthers survive rat race, defeat Devils

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are breaking franchise records and moved into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, but everyone was talking about a controversy surrounding rubber rats.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals, Jaromir Jagr had two assists and the Panthers earned a 3-2 victory the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at the BB&T; Center.

After each of Huberdeau’s goals — plus Aleksander Barkov’s key insurance score late — South Florida hockey aficionados tossed a portion of 10,000 small rubber rats that were handed out to fans pregame onto the ice in celebration reminiscent to the 1996 season that had the team make the franchise’s lone run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The first time: a warning was given. The second and third time: the referees stuck true to their guns, penalizing the Panthers two minutes for delay of game on each occurrence.

Jaromir Jagr, who with two assists notched the 18th 60-point season of his career, expressed his hot take on the matter.

“I’m pretty upset — not at the fans; they can do anything they want. But the referees, I don’t think they handled it right,” Jagr said. “You shouldn’t get penalized for selling the game. It doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant took the opposite stance.

“They called it like they’re supposed to call it. There’s nothing they can do when we throw stuff on the ice. It’s a rule, it’s been a rule for a long time,” Gallant said. “Got to know better than that. I hope it doesn’t happen again because we’re battling for a playoff spot and we’re trying to kill penalties.”

The Panthers (43-25-9) tied the franchise record for wins in a season set in 1999-2000 and their 95 points put this year’s team second in franchise history, surpassing the 2011-12 division champion squad.

More importantly, the two points put them two in front of Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division lead after the Lightning lost to Montreal on Thursday.

The Devils (37-33-8) have any remaining playoff aspirations dwindling as they have four games remaining and didn’t gain any ground after entering action seven points behind the idle Philadelphia Flyers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

Huberdeau, who extended his goal streak to four games, stuffed the game-winning goal from close range through Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid early in the third period.

“I see a little hole and said, ‘Why not just shoot it?’ and squeezed it in,” said Huberdeau, who has 18 goals on the year. “We needed that (win), especially at home in front of our fans. We’re right back at the top and we have to stay there, play better consistently.”

Said Kinkaid on how the game-winner got through: “I moved off to take the pass away. Good players are going to find holes. It hit off my back and went in. I should’ve just hugged the post tighter.”

Barkov forehanded an insurance goal past Kinkaid with just over two minutes remaining off a crisp pass from Jagr. It proved necessary as the Devils pulled within one on what would’ve been a tying goal when left winger Blake Pietila scored off a rebound with 5.7 seconds remaining.

Although Kinkaid saved 37 of the 40 shots against him, Al Montoya came away victorious in the battle of backup goalies with 14 of his 23 saves coming in the third period. The Panthers were outshooting the Devils 31-10 through two before New Jersey saw a flurry of opportunities in the third with four Florida penalties — two from the fans tossing the rats.

“I think it was a bonus for us to get those power plays, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to make them pay a bigger price for it,” Devils coach John Hynes said.

The Devils scored first 8:30 into the action with a power-play goal from Mike Sislo on a wrist shot from the left circle. Adam Henrique earned his 200th career point with the secondary assist on the goal that also earned Devante Smith-Pelly an assist.

Huberdeau tied it up 7:57 into the second period with his first of the night as he worked the puck around and behind Kinkaid on a breakaway. He was assisted by Shawn Thornton and Aaron Ekblad.

New Jersey stays in Florida to visit Tampa Bay on Saturday night while Florida stays home to battle the Montreal Canadiens.

NOTES: Panthers C Vincent Trocheck, who is tied for the team lead with a career-high 25 goals, will miss the remainder of the regular season after fracturing a bone in his left foot blocking a shot in Tuesday night’s loss to Toronto. Florida recalled C Rocco Grimaldi from Portland of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. … Devils LW Patrik Elias (knee), who has not played since Dec. 19, traveled with the team to Florida but did not play Thursday. … Devils G Cory Schneider is expected to return Saturday against Tampa Bay. He has not played since March 4 when he sprained the MCL in his right knee. … Panthers D Erik Gudbranson (foot) returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games. … Florida’s scratches in addition to Trocheck were D Alex Petrovic, LW Garrett Wilson, C Greg McKegg and RW Logan Shaw. … Devils C Tyler Kennedy returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury. … New Jersey’s scratches were D David Schlemko, C Jacob Josefson, RW Tuomo Ruutu and D Vojtech Mozik.

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