The Florida Panthers fell victim to the dreaded “first game back after a long road trip” by dropping a tough 4-3 decision to the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night at BB&T Center.
Despite having their season-best five-game winning streak snapped, the Cats remained tied for the second wild card spot thanks to Anaheim’s 5-3 win over Boston. The New York Islanders hold the ROW tiebreaker over the Panthers with 23 games left to go.
The Oilers got on the board early when Oscar Klefbom beat James Reimer unassisted with a slap shot at 5:18 of the first period. The Kelf “Bomb” came after Nick Bjugstad swept the puck away from the front of the net and inadvertently to the waiting defenseman.
It was a sign of things to come for both Edmonton’s defense and Reimer.
Florida cashed in on a power play that carried over from the first period to tie the game 21 seconds into the middle frame.
Aleksander Barkov fired home the goal after Jussi Jokinen collected the rebound of Aaron Ekblad’s shot and quickly fed him the puck.
Edmonton regained the lead at the 10:21 mark when Zack Kassian tipped Eric Gryba’s drive towards an empty net in for his fifth goal. Reimer was caught out of position after a shot from Mark Letestu hit the post and came right out to Gryba.
Colton Sceviour completed a double give and go with Jussi Jokinen to even things up 5:27 later. Keith Yandle drew the second assist for sending the pair of forwards into the zone two-on-two.
The Oilers took advantage of Milan Lucic toppling Alex Petrovic to move in on Reimer with numbers. After the goalie stopped Lucic’s initial shot and Jordan Eberle’s rebound bid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins jammed the puck in to put the visitors up 3-2 with 1:01 left in the period.
Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks was sent off for holding five seconds later, and the Panthers made them pay when Jonathan Marchessault split the Oilers defense and whipped the puck by Cam Talbot after taking a pretty pass from Yandle.
Kris Russell bagged the eventual game-winner with 7:58 left in regulation when he moved into the offensive zone to take a soft pass from Leon Draisaitl. Connor McDavid started the play off by rushing the puck up ice and dishing to Draisaitl. The helper gave McDavid an NHL-leading 68 points.
Talbot, who finished with 31 saves, made a solid stop on Jonathan Huberdeau with twenty seconds to go to prevent overtime and deny the Panthers at least a point.
The Cats get back at it on Friday when the Calgary Flames come to town for their one and only visit.
Pressure & Viscosity
- The last time the Panthers beat the Oilers on home ice was on March 8, 2002. Edmonton has now won eight straight times in South Florida.
- Kirs Russell’s game-winning goal was his first tally with Edmonton and first since February 11, 2016 when he played for the Calgary Flames.
- Keith Yandle’s two assists gave the veteran defenseman 400 career NHL points.
- James Reimer matched Cam Talbot with 31 stops, but suffered his second defeat of the season to the Oilers.
- Jussi Jokinen’s two assist gave the Finn ten points in his last ten games.
- Copper & Blue has the happier side of last night’s decision.