On Saturday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, the Panthers defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1 to open their 2016-17 season with a second consecutive win. They have never started a season with three straight.
Vincent Trocheck got the Panthers on the board first, and early. At the 1:10 mark of the opening period, he quickly skated into the Red Wings’ zone, went to Petr Mrazek’s left and around the back of the net, banked the puck off Dylan Larkin’s right skate, and past Mrazek for the 1-0 lead. It was Trocheck’s first point this season, his 84th overall in 148 games to move him within a point of Gregory Campbell for 43rd on Florida’s all-time leaderboard. Jussi Jokinen earned his first assist of the season on the play, which tied him with Mike Van Ryn in 34th all-time (OK, I’ll stop that now...)
With 5:42 gone in the period, Greg McKegg was called for high sticking Danny DeKeyser, but the Cats proved equal to the task, failing to surrender a shot on goal through the ensuing two-minute man advantage.
Florida doubled their lead at 10:01 of the first period, on a textbook, highlight reel give-and-go from Jonathan Marchessault to Colton Sceviour. The play was started when Denis Malgin collected the puck deep in the Florida zone, then hit Marchessault in stride through the neutral zone. Sceviour scored his first goal for the Panthers by beating Mrazek high on the glove side for a 2-0 advantage.
The Red Wings got one back from the Cats three minutes later when Darren Helm ripped a one-timer off a Gustav Nyquist feed from behind the net over Roberto Luongo’s glove side to make it 2-1 Panthers.
The teams headed for the locker rooms after the first with Florida holding a 16-to-9 shot-on-goal advantage, but Detroit had the momentum.
Florida controlled play through most of a scoreless second period, outshooting Detroit 12-to-4. The Panthers got their first power play of the game with 12 minutes gone in the period, when Alexey Marchenko held Reilly Smith’s stick, but it was for naught as the Wings easily took care of Florida’s five-on-four. Jonathan Ericsson cross-checked Aaron Ekblad with 11 seconds remaining in the period, but served most of the penalty in the third period.
As in the first and the second, Florida led the shots-on-goal category, by a 10-to-9 margin, although desperation made the Wings dangerous and unpredictable.
With just under six minutes left in regulation, Jason Demers hooked Justin Abdelkader to give the then-swarming Wings an extra skater, but Florida’s penalty kill was up to the task of containing them.
Neither team could again dent the scoreboard until there was just 2:22 left in the third period, when Aleksander Barkov scored his second marker of the regular season off his own rebound past an outstretched Mrazek for a 3-1 lead. Marchessault got his second assist of the night on the play, and Jaromir Jagr earned his first helper of the season after digging the puck out against two Red Wings and feeding Marchessault. It was Jagr’s 1,869th career point, getting him within 18 of Mark Messier for second on the all-time NHL leaderboard, and 15 short of Paul Coffey for fifth on the all-time assists list.
Marchessault closed the scoring with an unassisted empty netter with 1:23 left in the game for his second goal of the season and his third point of the night. He leads the Panthers with four points thus far.
Rainbows and Puppies
- It seemed several times through the game, and mostly in the second period, that some combination of Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck would crash through Detroit’s defense, get a two-on-one against Mrazek, and somehow not get a very dangerous shot off. I want to say it happened three times, but I can only remember twice for sure. Those two times ended with Mrazek sprawling on his face but safe from allowing a goal.
- Remember the times when the Panthers would lose even though Luongo stood on his head all game? Or when the Panthers would lose because they “ran into a goaltender having the game of his life?” I remember that it seemed to happen at least three to four times every month. Isn’t it nice to run into a goaltender who, by all accounts, had a great game (at least through the first 58 minutes), and still come away with the win?
- The Panthers, who had allowed Larkin six points in four career games through last season, held him to no points, one shot on goal, a 6-for-16 night in the faceoff dot, and a game-worst minus-4 rating.
- Remember Florida’s hit-or-miss special teams last season? Well the power play is off to a lukewarm start, but the penalty kill did not allow even a shot on goal until there were five minutes left in the second game of the season.
- Each of Florida’s six defensemen finished the game with a plus-one rating. Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, and Michael Matheson combined for 14 shots on goal, while Yandle and Mark Pysyk blocked seven shots between them.
- Shane Harper and Panthers’ captain Derek MacKenzie led the Cats with three hits each.
Ekblad, Yandle, Trocheck, and Smith were the only Florida players to skate for over 20 minutes, but eight other skaters got over 16 minutes of ice time for the game.
Thanks for reading. For more on this one, you can read all about the Red Wings at Winging it in Motown. For more on the Panthers, keep it locked right here at Litter Box Cats. Next up for the Panthers, the also 2-0-0 Tampa Bay Lightning, on Tuesday night at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.