After an extended stay atop the Atlantic Division, the Florida Panthers find themselves on the brink of taking a tumble down the standings after a 5-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale. The Cats head home after a five-game road trip that saw them post a 1-3-1 record to face the Boston Bruins in a key divisional matchup on Monday. A loss in that game will leave the Panthers mired in third place.
After a scoreless first period that saw Vincent Trocheck catch the post, Jordan Martinook opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal 29 seconds into the middle frame. Martinook's breakaway came after he swiped the puck from Reilly Smith near his own blue line.
Alex Tanguay, making his Coyotes debut, scored at 5:36 from Antoine Vermette to put the home side up by two. The former Avalanche veteran took a feed in front from Vermette after Anthony Duclair forced Jakub Kindl into turning the puck over and tucked a backhand by Al Montoya.
The Panthers halved the deficit with 2:32 left in the frame when Aaron Ekblad beat Louis Domingue, who finished with 32 stops, for his 13th of the season. The Cats' only goal was set up by the sweet passing of Jussi Jokinen and Aleksander Barkov.
The Coyotes, losers of seven-straight coming into the game, exploded for three goals in the final twenty-minutes to end their long skid.
Shane Doan's power-play goal 1:36 into the stanza restored Arizona's two-goal advantage. Doan was able to rap the puck in after Vermette deflected Oliver Ekman-Larsson's wrister from the line towards the net.
Tanguay put the game out of reach 3:59 later when he capped off the pretty passing of Vermette and Duclair with a tidy deflection right in front of Montoya.
The Coyotes completed the third period barrage when Vermette easily pumped home the rebound of Duclair's long shot with 23 ticks left on the clock. Tanguay drew the secondary helper on the play.
The reeling Panthers, whose wonky power play went 0 for 5 in this one, could get a boost on Monday if Jonathan Huberdeau and/or Derek MacKenzie return to the lineup. This was a disturbing loss to a team that is simply playing out the string and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Cats have lost their mojo defensively. They will to tighten things up starting against the Bruins on this week's homestand, that also includes games against current non-playoff teams, Ottawa and Philadelphia.
Kibbles & Bits
- The Coyotes may be an also-ran, but they are now 7-2-1 in their last ten meetings with the Panthers.
- Thankfully, this was Florida's final game against a Western Conference foe. The Cats finished 12-13-2 versus the 14 clubs from the west.
- Aleksander Barkov's assist gave him at least a point in 5 of 6 games since returning to the lineup.
- Nick Bjugstad registered a game-high 7 shots on goal, but finished up with an ugly -3 rating. Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell, playing in their second games as Panthers, went -3 and -4 respectively. Yikes...
- The new line of Quebecers Antoine Vermette (1G/3A), Alex Tanguay (2G/1A) and Anthony Duclair (2A) feasted on the Cats' tattered defense, combing for nine points and +9 rating.
- Al Montoya delivered his worst start of the season, surrendering all five goals and finishing with 21 saves on 26 shots.
- The incomparable war-on-ice has the advanced stats recap for you right here.
- NHL.com has a highlight package for you to see with your own eyes.
- For more on Florida's dog day
afternoonevening in Glendale, visit Five For Howling.