The Florida Panthers closed out the New York area road trip with a 3-2 loss in New Jersey this afternoon. The Panthers finish their three game trip to New York and New Jersey with a 1-2 record and taking just 2 out of a possible 6 points. The Panthers record on the year now stands at a disappointing 2-4-3 for a total of just 7 points, good for 7th in the Atlantic division. They will now head out to Finland for a back to back set of games against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Panthers got off to a strong start right out of the gate as they frequently do. Today’s start looked especially encouraging considering the noon start time. The Panthers had their legs and seemed energized and fast in the first period. Their hard work resulted in three power plays and a brief 5 on 3 advantage. Vincent Trocheck rang a wrist shot off the post from his spot at the right circle. The puck found it’s way to Jonathan Huberdeau’s stick and he whistled a shot just over the cross bar. Despite the scoring chances, Devils goalie, Keith Kinkaid stood on his head and the Panthers were unable to score in the first. The Panthers appeared to let their foot off the gas in the final minutes of the period and they got burned with 9 seconds left in the first frame. Kyle Palmieri scored his eighth of the year after he crashed into James Reimer’s outstretched arm causing the puck to roll across the goal line. Coach Bob Boughner challenged the play for what appeared to be an obvious goaltender interference, but after a lengthy review the goal (shockingly) stood as called and the Panthers went into the dressing room down a goal.
The second period was yet another let down as the Panthers came out slow and gave up an early goal to the NHL’s reigning MVP, Taylor Hall. It appeared that there was some sort of breakdown resulting in Aaron Ekblad trying to cut off an entire side of the ice by himself and Hall camped out by himself in the slot. These breakdowns have occurred far too often to start the season and the goalies have had very little chance to make those saves. The Panthers had a handful of 2 on 1 rushes but couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Evgenii Dadonov missed a breakaway chance by inches. Blake Coleman redirected a point shot into the back of the net to extend New Jersey’s lead to 3-0. Vincent Trocheck got a breakaway in the last few minutes of the period that missed the net and resulted in a high sticking penalty against Trocheck. The Panthers killed the 5 on 3 that followed and went into the intermission down 3-0.
The third period was more of the same from the Panthers. The energy and chances weren’t there as the Devils just sat back and locked down their zone. The Devils did get a breakaway chance for Taylor Hall but Reimer shut the door on that chance. Keith Yandle hit the post on a bouncing point shot but the score remained 3-0 late into the period. With just under five minutes to play, Huberdeau assisted Mike Matheson’s first goal of the season on a neat backhand. That seemed to spark a flurry as the Panthers began applying heavy pressure. The late rush paid off with 14 seconds remaining as Mike Hoffman ripped one past Kinkaid. The Panthers got one last draw in the offensive zone but it was too little too late. The game ended with the Devils on top 3-2.
The Panthers played well enough to win for stretches of the game but that has been the case for most of the season to this point. The terrible second periods have persisted and the team remains incapable of putting together a full 60 minute effort. The defensive breakdowns have plagued this team. The Panthers loss today marks another one goal loss which speaks to how close they are to breaking through and winning these games. Some of that is just bad puck luck, but a lot of the one goal losses this year can be traced back to one crucial mistake resulting in a goal. In today’s case it was the Taylor Hall goal off of a defensive breakdown. The Panthers are close, but they have yet to break through and they can’t afford to wait until they get healthy to do it. They have to find a way to win games now or else this season will be too far gone to salvage.
- The Panthers were perfect on the penalty kill today and should look to build on that.
- The Panthers power play went 0-4 today despite getting several good chances. They are setting up well but they are just not finishing.
- The new defense pairs have continued to look better. The Ekblad-Matheson pair now has 3 points in 3 games. Alex Petrovic has looked very reliable paired with Keith Yandle resulting in fewer catastrophic mistakes from Yandle.
- Mike Hoffman has quietly been on fire and has extended his goal streak to 4 games and his point streak to 7 games. He fired 8 shots on goal today.
- Bob Boughner may have a fine coming his way after his post game criticism of the “good goal” ruling on Kyle Palmieri’s first period goal. It seemed obvious that Reimer was plowed into and had no chance to make the save. Boughner said after the game that the call “cost us a point.”
- The stats are misleading, but James Reimer has been very good in the past two games. Maybe he can start stringing together some good hockey games.
A Look Ahead to Finland
The Panthers are now on their way to Finland to play a pair of games against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Friday. The headlines will all be about the match-up between Finnish superstars, Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine, but the Panthers must stay focused on getting points out of the trip. The team bonding and the few days on the back end of the trip should help the team to get healthy, but they are in a dire situation where they need to get points out of the upcoming games against an elite Jets team to stay relevant in the standings and keep the season from completely falling apart. If all goes well, the Panthers will win a game or both in Finland and then hit the ground running against a few mediocre teams when they return home. There will be no hockey for the Panthers until Thursday but it should be well worth the wait as the Finland games will be fun to watch.
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