ESTERO, Fla. — Nathan Perkovich scored twice and Jeremy Helvig yielded just one goal for the second straight start to send the Florida Everblades to their 20th home win of the season, a 4-1 triumph over the Atlanta Gladiators on Wednesday night at Hertz Arena.
With a chance to get to 20 home wins for the fifth straight season, the Everblades (40-15-5-0, 85 pts.) scored twice on the power play and finished a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill to beat the Gladiators (24-24-7-1, 56 pts.) for the sixth time this season.
Kyle Platzer kick-started the scoring for the 'Blades at 9:09 of the first period with his 24th goal of the year, arguably his best of the season. With the 'Blades on the power play, there was more room for Platzer to utilize his blazing speed. He raced from the ‘Blades line through the middle of the ice and cut past Atlanta defenseman Jack Stander with a toe drag. Following the toe drag, Platzer then stuffed the puck five-hole on Atlanta goaltender Sean Bonar while on his forehand.
The ‘Blades continued their second-period dominance, adding two more goals to their lead. Florida sits atop the league in second-period goal differential this season and has outscored its opponents by 37 goals in the middle frame.
Matt Finn scored an impressive of his own at 6:42 of the second to give the ‘Blades a two-goal lead. Finn potted his 10th goal of the season in sneaky fashion, as he snuck down from the blueline into the slot while Patrick Bajkov worked the puck down low behind the net. With Finn wide open in front, Bajkov set him up. Finn then went to his backhand and flipped it past Bonar.
Florida quickly added another on the first of the night from Perkovich, coming only 31 seconds after Finn scored. Michael Downing snapped off a shot from the left point that Perkovich caught a piece of on a redirect while standing just to the left of the goal. That tally increased Florida’s advantage to 3-0.
Perkovich then pushed Florida’s lead to four with a power-play strike in the first minute of the third. With the Blades cycling in the Gladiator’s end, the puck found its way to the stick of Derek Sheppard at the point. He launched a missile of a shot from the point that bounced off the pads of Bonar right to the stick of Perkovich, who flipped it over Bonar’s head for the goal.
Platzer picked up his second point of the night with a secondary assist on the second tally by Perkovich, giving him his third multi-point game in his last five contests. Platzer now has nine points (3g-6a) over a five-game point streak.
Atlanta’s Nolan LaPorte scored with 26 seconds to play to break Helvig’s shutout bid.
Helvig earned his 21st victory for the ‘Blades and stopped 26 shots, while Bonar made 34 saves in the loss.
Florida continues the three-game set against Atlanta with a Friday night matchup at Hertz Arena. Faceoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes