South Florida, we have a winning streak. The Florida Panthers posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in their first game since returning from Finland.
After being off for close to a week, the Cats unsurprisingly started slowly. Roberto Luongo denied Leon Draisaitl and stunned Ty Rattie with a glove save, providing a much-needed boost that helped get the Panthers to the dressing room in a scoreless tie. Mike Matheson showed some jump, getting good chances on Cam Talbot early and late in the frame. Florida’s penalty kill came up big, holding the Oilers without a shot while Vincent Trocheck spent two minutes in the penalty box for holding Draisaitl.
After missing the net on a 2-on-1 opportunity, Evgenii Dadonov opened the scoring 6:45 into second when he converted a sweet backhand pass from Aleksander Barkov in close after the Cats took possession back at center ice. Mike Hoffman drew the second assist on the goal to extended his point streak to ten games. Florida extended its lead 1:27 later when Nick Bjugstad punched a rebound home after Bogdan Kiselevich’s shot from the left boards was blocked. Hats off to Bjugstad, who took possession after an offensive draw and not only worked his way through the zone to feed Kiselevich, went to the net in search of the puck after making the pass. Jared McCann picked up the second assist on the play. The Panthers made things relatively easy for Luongo by out-shooting the Oilers 19-4 in the period, although the cagey vet had to rob Rattie yet again, this time with the leg pad.
Edmonton’s dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Draisaitl finally got on the board 23 ticks into third when the German redirected a pass from the reigning Art Ross Trophy-winner by Luongo after a Matheson turnover in the neutral zone. Not to worry, Jonathan Huberdeau to the rescue. Huberdeau drew a slashing minor on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and then scored on the ensuing power play at the 3:43 mark to give the Nuge and the Oilers a case of Cat Scratch Fever. After playing catch with Keith Yandle, who did a nice job of lugging the puck up ice and gaining the zone, Trocheck went cross-ice to Huberdeau, who fired home into the yawning net to restore the two-goal lead. Luongo made 12 stops in the final frame to finish the game with 26 saves and First Star honors. Trocheck and Hoffman collected their second assists of the night on Colton Sceviour’s empty-net clincher with 49 seconds to go.
Good vibes all around after this one. The Panthers beat the Oilers on home ice, the first win at the BB&T Center this season, for the first time since 2002 to finally build its first winning streak of 2018-19. In addition to Mike Hoffman’s current NHL-longest ten game point streak, Evgenii Dadonov now has points in nine straight games. Back to Hoffman, he joined Pavel Bure and Jokinens Olli and Jussi as the only players in franchise history with a point streak of at least 10 games. The Cats killed off all the three of Edmonton’s power plays and dominated in the faceoff circle. Roberto Luongo raised his record to 2-0 and lowered his GAA to 1.18. After the win, the Panthers are still just 30th in league, but with Luogno back in the net, they won’t be for long.