If the Florida Panthers ever make the Stanley Cup final again, one team they won’t want to see on the other side is the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild continued its mastery of the Cats with a 5-1 win Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center, a place where Florida has only managed a grand total of one victory in ten visits.
Despite getting out-shot by a 13-5 count in the opening period, the Wild managed the frame’s only goal when Zach Parise beat Roberto Luongo after taking a centering feed from Jason Pominville. Jonas Brodin picked up the second assist on the goal that came at 11:19.
Eric Haula doubled the Minnesota lead 4:11 into the second period. Haula swept the rebound of Nino Niederreiter’s bad angle shot into the yawning net to cap off a rather slow developing 3-on-2 Wild rush. Charlie Coyle also picked up an assist on Haula’s fifth.
It appeared winger Kyle Rau pulled the Panthers back within one midway through the stanza, but the goal was taken off the board after the review revealed Derek Mackenzie was offsides.
Eric Staal scored 1:07 after the goal was waved off to put the Wild up by three. Pominville sent Staal in on a breakaway with a long pass and after Luongo stopped the initial shot with his blocker, the veteran center was able to bat his own rebound into the cage. Jared Spurgeon was credited with the secondary assist on the play.
The Wild padded its lead early in the third period when Mikko Koivu finished off a pass from Jason Zucker at 6:04. Mikael Granlund got the puck down low to Zucker, who was able to slide it across the slot to the waiting Koivu.
The speedy Zucker would score a pretty backhand goal, on yet another breakaway, from Matt Dumba and Brodin 2:22 later to chase Luongo, who finished the game with 12 saves.
Florida finally solved Devan Dubnyk to get on the board with 4:24 left in regulation. Thumper Dylan McIlrath got the goal after his shot from above the right circle deflected in off of Brodin’s skate. Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith drew the helpers on McIlrath’s first in a Panthers uniform.
The road trip rolls on with the next stop in Winnipeg on Thursday night. The shaky Cats will need a much better effort in all facets if they are going to take two points from the Jets.
Spiders & Snakes
- For a team so analytically inclined, I’m not sure why Roberto Luongo got the start in this one. Luongo is now 0-7 lifetime in St. Paul and has been pulled in four of those games.
- In addition to scoring his first as a Panther, Dylan McIlrath threw down with Kurits Gabriel in the first and Chris Stewart in the third, and dished out a team-high three hits.
- Devan Dubnyk, who has won his last five, finished the game with 29 saves and lowered his NHL-best GAA to 1.60. Dubnyk’s league-leading save percentage is now a ridiculous .947.
- Jonathan Marchessault returned to the lineup after missing five games. His primary assist on Florida’s only goal gave him his first 20-point season and tied him with Aleksander Barkov for the team scoring lead.
- James Reimer played 11:34 and stopped all five shots he faced in relief of Luongo.
- The Panthers power play continues to sputter. Florida went 0 for 5 to fall to 30th in the league at 12.6%. What is it going to take to fix this?
- For more on the latest Wild win over the Cats , brace yourself for the icy cold and rugged terrain of Hockey Wilderness.