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Ekblad’s OT Goal Lifts Panthers Over Golden Knights 4-3

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Ekblad helped the Panthers get a big win and spoil former coach Gerard Gallant’s return to Florida.

Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 victory over Gallant’s new team, the Vegas Golden Knights, on Friday night.

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Ekblad grabbed a rebound off a shot by Aleksander Barkov in the high slot and fired it past Malcolm Subban into the net.

“One of their players batted it out (of the net) and right on my stick,” Ekblad said. “Got lucky it sat nice and didn’t bounce over.”

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Gallant, fired by the Panthers in November 2016, was hired to coach the expansion Golden Knights last April. Making his first visit back since his dismissal, Gallant got a standing ovation during a scoreboard video tribute in the first period. Gallant acknowledged the tribute with a wave of his hand.

“I don’t get too emotional,” Gallant said. “I enjoyed my time here, we had a good run, and the fans treated me well.”

Barkov scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal of the season and had two assists. Evgenii Dadonov and Jamie McGinn also scored and James Reimer stopped 33 shots.

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“It was a good start for the second half of the season,” Barkov said. “We got a lucky bounce right on Ekblad’s stick. He’s not going to miss from that spot.”

William Karlsson had a goal and an assist, and James Neal and David Perron also scored for Vegas. Subban finished with 22 saves.

Dadonov broke a 2-2 tie when he poked in a rebound at 3:35 of the third. Barkov’s shot from the high slot bounced off Subban’s glove out to Dadonov to the right of the crease and he pushed the puck into the net. Dadonov has three goals in the past two games.

Neal tied the score at 3 with 2:09 left in the third when he roofed a shot past Reimer from in front.

“It was good to get that tying goal, and then in the overtime I liked our chances,” Neal said. “It was a tough loss but we’ll be better next game.”

With the score tied 1-1 in the first, Barkov put the Panthers ahead on his short-handed goal. Vincent Trocheck’s shot was blocked as he rushed the net but Barkov was able to poke in the rebound from the corner of the net with 4:05 left. The Panthers lead the NHL with nine short-handed goals.

The Golden Knight tied the score on Karlsson’s goal at 6:57 of the second. Shea Theodore made a nice feed across to Karlsson, who swept the puck past Reimer. Karlsson leads Vegas with 25 goals.

“We were fighting back the whole game,” Karlsson said. “We managed to tie it up twice. It could have gone either way.”

McGinn gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead on his goal 3:15 in. Subban tried to clear the puck from in front but McGinn corralled the loose puck and put it into the net.

Perron tied the score with 5:38 left in the first as he took a cross-ice pass from Erik Haula, tipped by Brad Hunt, and fired the puck past Reimer.

NOTES: Neal has scored 20 or more goals for 10 consecutive seasons. ... Golden Knights forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith each played for the Panthers last season. ... The Panthers honored original owner H. Wayne Huizenga by retiring jersey No. 37 in a pregame ceremony on Friday night. Huizenga’s lucky number is 37 and was also the year he was born. ... Panthers D Keith Yandle played his 677th straight game, the longest active streak in the NHL. Yandle has not missed a game since March 22, 2009, when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes.

UP NEXT: Golden Knights visit Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Panthers visit Nashville Predators on Saturday.