The Panthers went head to head with one of the NHL’s very best teams on Thursday night and put together an impressive effort in a 3-2 shootout victory. Despite giving up a pair of one-goal leads, the Cats were able to weather the storm and eventually come up with the win and two points thanks to a big, 41-save night from James Reimer and some Sasha Barkov shootout magic.
The Panthers came out with a lot of energy and almost buried a goal on a Barkov-Huberdeau connection just a over a minute into the game. That would prove to be the best chance of the period, though. The Panthers kept pressing and kept the defense tight for the majority of the period only allowing a couple of chances in dangerous areas. The first period ended scoreless after a good showing from both goaltenders and defenses.
The second period was an eventful one with both teams generating scoring chances, but neither goalie was allowing much. Reimer stopped a threatening 2-on-1 from Matthew Tkachuk and former Panther Michael Frolik. Reimer then denied Derek Ryan on shorthanded breakaway chance. The Panthers were finally able to break through when a Mark Pysyk wrister found it’s way into the net off the leg of Evgenii Dadonov with about five minutes to play in the period. The goal marked number 20 on the year for Dadonov and sent the Panthers into the third period with a 1-0 lead.
The flood gates really opened in the third period when Mark Jankowski fired a wrist shot past Reimer to even the score. The Panthers challenged for offside, but eventually lost the challenge which gave them an automatic bench minor penalty as a result of the NHL’s offside challenge rule. On the ensuing power play, Sean Monahan had a golden opportunity to score and take the lead, but Reimer shut it down with a spectacular desperation kick save. That save would prove to be vital as it kept the game tied until Hoffman ripped a gorgeous wrist shot just under the crossbar at 11:59 in the third. The goal was Hoffman’s 26th of the season. The Panthers then went into a defensive shell for a while and it eventually cost them when Elias Lindholm tipped a point shot past Reimer to even the score once again and send it into overtime.
The Panthers controlled the early part of OT which resulted in two breakaway chances for Jonathan Huberdeau and one for Barkov. Barkov was inches away from scoring one of his all time greatest goals on a filthy breakaway move, but Mike Smith slammed the door. The Flames got a great chance of their own when Keith Yandle fell and Calgary took off on a 3-on-1. Reimer denied T.J. Brodie on that chance. Huberdeau would get one more opportunity late in the OT frame but he missed wide and the game went to a shootout.
Jonathan Huberdeau shot first but was denied by a diving pokecheck. Sean Monahan countered with a wrist shot goal. Sasha Barkov was up next and he had Mike Smith looking lost after a sick forehand-to-backhand move which Barkov buried top shelf to tie the game. Reimer denied Andrew Mangiapane to keep the shootout tally at 1-1. Vinnie Trocheck shot next for the Panthers and after a quick shot fake, beat Mike Smith high to the glove side to take the lead 2-1. Matthew Tkachuk sent a backhand wide of the net and the Panthers escaped with a win.
Shots: Flames-43 Panthers-32
Power Plays: Flames-(0/4) Panthers-(0/1)
Faceoffs Won: Flames-25 Panthers-36
Hits: Flames-20 Panthers-24
Blocked Shots: Flames-12 Panthers-18
Game and Lineup Notes
Coach Bob Boughner juggled the lines and defense pairings a bit for Thursday night’s win. The newly assembled second line of Hoffman-Trocheck-Dadonov combined for both goals in regulation and created the most offense of any line tonight.
Boughner also split up Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle as defense partners which immediately paid off with much more solid defense all around. Yandle benefits greatly from having a partner such as Pysyk who is a responsible, stay-at-home guy. Ekblad proves much more efficient when he has a Matheson on the blue line with him. Matheson has such high end speed that he is able to recover much quicker than Yandle when Ekblad plays up the ice.
It’s also worth noting that Jayce Hawryluk returned from IR and made his presence felt in his short minutes of ice time. He added a much needed spark.
The Panthers are next in action at home this Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens. The Cats will be looking for their first win of the year against the Habs in game three of their season series. It will undoubtedly be a playoff-like atmosphere as it is clear these two teams really don’t like each other. I wouldn’t recommend missing it.
Thanks for reading!