The Florida Panthers rallied from a three-goal hole to force overtime before falling 6-5 in a shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers. Florida remained winless to start the 2018-19 campaign.
The Panthers played a pretty solid twenty minutes of road hockey to open the game. Michael Hutchinson made his first start in the red, blue and flat gold and his teammates made things relatively easy for him. Frank Vatrano scored the only goal at 17:58 of the period when he tracked down Denis Malgin’s miss, impressively outworked Scott Laughton along boards, and fired a shot by Brian Elliott for his first of the season. Jared McCann drew the second assist on the goal. The Cats out-shot the Flyers 12-5 in the frame, but failed to cash in on its only power play opportunity. The special teams managed a kill after Aaron Ekblad was called for holding with Vatrano’s tally coming 18 seconds later.
We saw the Panthers at their best a week ago in the second period against Columbus and in last night’s game, we might of seen them at their worst. Philadelphia scored five times on just eleven shots to take control of the game. Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Weal, and Claude Giroux all lit the lamp in first 8:50 of the frame. The first two markers came on deflections while the dangerous Giroux was simply gifted the puck by Ekblad in the slot. Vatrano took advantage of a misplay by Elliott, who whiffed as McCann’s dump in came off the back boards and then the net and into the slot, quickly going top shelf for his second of the night to temporarily stop the bleeding at 12:31. Mark Pysyk registered the second assist on the play. The bandage would come off a few minutes later as the Flyers tacked on two more goals. Laughton made up for his earlier transgression, finding Simmonds all alone in front with a crisp pass to cap off a 2-on-1 break, and Giroux would also pick up his second of the tilt after Shayne Gostisbehere’s nice stick work won a 50-50 puck from McCann just outside the Panthers blue line leading to the goal. Florida struck on the power play with 2:29 to go in the stanza. After taking a pass from Keith Yandle, Mike Hoffman looked in front for Aleksander Barkov and hard feed deflected in off Ivan Provorov’s blade, giving the former Senator his first as a Panther. It took fifteen tries for the Cats to finally click on the power play this season.
To their credit, the Panthers shook off the beating they took in the second and rallied, ending Elliott’s night 5:06 into the third period in the process. Troy Brouwer took an outlet from MacKenzie Weegar at center and sent Bogdan Kiselevich into Flyers zone and his pass sprung Evgenii Dadonov, who finished the play off with a pretty shot up high. The assist gave Kiselevich his first NHL point. Florida almost scored again, but Ekblad rang a shot off the cross bar after Nick Bjugstad found him motoring down the right side. The Cats solved Calvin Pickard at the 8:07 mark to complete the comeback. Yandle cut off a pass and sent Barkov away on a breakaway and he scooped a backhander by Pickard, tying score with ease. Neither team did much the rest of the way, combing for just 13 shots in the period, and the game went to overtime.
Overtime / Shootout
Hoffman took a tripping penalty 1:55 into the extra session to basically squelch any chance of a Panthers overtime win. Hutchinson made a solid stop on Jakub Voracek’s blast from the right circle to help kill the power play. Voracek would quickly get revenge In the first round of shootout, pulling Hutchinson to the ice with a deke before finishing off his skate on the forehand. Barkov beat Pickard on the backhand again to match Voracek’s goal in the bottom of the second round. Weal opened the third round by going right down the middle and firing the puck through Hutchinson’s five hole for the decisive goal as Pickard would deny Vatrano to give Philadelphia the win and second point.
While some credit has to be given for the rally from three down, the Panthers had roughly 12 minutes of regulation and 5 minutes of overtime to win the game and again came up short. They didn’t even have a shot on goal in the extra session and only put a total of three shots on Pickard after he entered the game. Florida remains wildly inconsistent, looking really good in spells and really bad in others. Two of the three periods were how you want to play on the road, while the second was completely dreadful from a defensive standpoint and cost them a point against a team they will (hopefully) be competing against for a wild card spot. Hutchinson finished with 21 saves on 26 saves and I can’t really fault him much on any of the goals, except for maybe the fifth one. Just too many high quality chances against in the middle frame. The Cats will face the Stanley Cap champs next in Washington, so things aren’t going to get any easier.