Early Deficit Dooms Panthers In OT Loss
After enduring an absolutely brutal loss on Thursday to the Washington Capitals that saw them put the Florida Panthers in four-goal hole less than ten minutes in, one wouldâ€™ve hoped that the Cats would have come out Friday against the Winnipeg Jets with some urgency in their game. Instead, for the second consecutive game, the opponentâ€™s first shot beat Jacob Markstrom as Florida spent much of the evening trying to climb out of a first period, two-goal deficit in the 3-2 OT loss.
With both teams playing their second night of a back-to-back, Andrew Laddâ€™s first shot, trickled through the legs of Markstrom and cross the line just before the net was dislodged just 2:35 into the game. A disastrous defensive sequence led to a wide open slap shot for Blake Wheeler that beat Markstrom over his left shoulder later in the period for a 2-0 lead. Jonathan Huberdeau breathed some life into the game for the home folks with his put back goal with 13 seconds left in the frame.
From there, Florida took over the game outshooting the Jets 26-16 over the final two periods of regulation that only producing one goal. Shawn Matthias evened the game early in the third as he put Tomas Kopeckyâ€™s beautiful backhanded feed past Ondrej Pavelec. It would be the last one heâ€™d give up on the night though not for lack of trying as Florida spent the remaining minutes of regulation in the Winnipeg zone, putting heavy pressure on his cage. In the overtime session, Dustin Byfuglien waltzed through the Florida zone before flicking one past Markstrom with 41 seconds left to send the home crowd out disappointed.
This game is a prime example of how important it is to not fall behind early. The Panthers were the better team for much of the game but digging themselves a two goal hole to climb out of didnâ€™t do them any favors. Of course, it didnâ€™t help that Pavelec, who is either really good or really bad against Florida, was really good on this night, stopping 38 of 40. Despite the loss, there was some much-needed good news as Kris Versteeg returned to the lineup Friday. He didnâ€™t score (like he usually does against the Jets) but he did play almost 19 minutes which is encouraging for his first game in close to a month.
The season has taken on a weird feel. For as many injuries that have hit the Panthers and the fact that they still sit at 30th place in the NHL, you check the standings and see theyâ€™re only six points behind the New York Rangers for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. For as close as they seem like they could bottom out, theyâ€™re a hot streak away from jumping into the playoff race. Itâ€™s not encouraging that theyâ€™ll play more on the road over the second half of the season than at home but, this team doesnâ€™t exactly do things according to script. As they get healthier, does this team have a run left in them?
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