If there’s one recurring trend to the Florida Panthers 2013-14 season, it’s that the a poor first period usually equates to a loss. That trend continues on Friday as the Panthers dug their customary 2-0 first period deficit on their way to a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
Against the Wild, one of the stingiest defensive teams in the NHL with Josh Harding in net, the Cats could ill afford to fall behind early yet, that’s exactly what happened. Zach Parise capitalized on a Brad Boyes penalty five minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead. Boyes would miss his chance to atone for his mistake give minutes later but his point blank shot rang off the goalpost and out. Minutes after, Jason Pominville would double the lead as he took advantage of lackadaisical backchecking to tap one past Tim Thomas.
In the second period, the Panthers picked up their play, outshooting the Wild 9-5 but weren’t able to get one past Harding until just over three minutes into the third. Tomas Kopecky broke his season-long goal drought as Jesse Winchester found him on Harding’s doorstep for an easy tap in. Six minutes later, Jonathan Huberdeau scored his first in 13 games to tied the score.
The tie would only last as Charlie Coyle grabbed position in front of Thomas and easily tapped in a Mikko Koivu pass for the game winner. Florida would have several chances to tie the game over the remaining minutes but Harding did enough to keep his red light off.
You can’t help but wonder where this season would be if this team wasn’t playing from behind every single night. Or at least if they seemingly didn’t spot the opposition a two goal lead every night. The Wild are a good team and the Panthers had the better of play over the last 40 minutes but it’s lost because of the first 20. If anything, it’s another hard-fought game under interim coach Peter Horachek but, his biggest challenge is getting this team to focus in the first period. If he can somehow accomplish this, there’ll be a lot more wins to write about here instead of these recaps seeming like Groundhog Day.
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