The Florida Panthers blew a one-goal lead after forty minutes, dropping a key game 4-2 to the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon.
To make matters worse, the three teams the Cats are chasing for a playoff spot all won as the day wore on.
After a scoreless first period that saw the Panthers outshoot the Oilers 16-10, Florida finally broke through when Frank Vatrano scored unassisted 8:02 into the second. Drake Cagguila dropped the puck back to the point, but it got by Oscar Klefbom and Vatrano tracked it down before goaltender Cam Talbot could and fired it into an empty net.
The Oilers countered 3:07 later when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took a pass from Leon Draisaitl and beat Roberto Luongo with a rather routine looking effort from the left faceoff dot. The shorthanded shot struck Luongo’s leg pad and dribbled through the five-hole.
Vincent Trocheck put the Panthers back on top with 4:06 left in the frame when he corralled Derek MacKenzie’s cross and put the puck between Talbot’s arm and body. Aaron Ekblad drew the second helper on Trocheck team-leading 28th goal.
Edmonton would tie the game 38 seconds into the third period. Luongo stopped a shot from in close by Ty Rattie, but the rebound came to Connor McDavid, who curled his way into the right circle and fired the puck home for his 34th of the season. Nugent-Hopkins started the play off with a nice keep at the blue line before passing down low to Rattie.
McDavid would draw an assist on Adam Larsson’s go-ahead that came at the 6:13 mark. The OIlers superstar dropped the puck to Darnell Nurse, who blasted it wide. The carom came to his defense partner Larsson, who centered it from sharp angle, looking for Rattie, off Luongo’s stick and over the goal line.
Rattie would bag an empty-netter, his first goal of the season, from the neutral zone with 50 seconds to go with the lone assist going to who else, McDavid.
The Panthers were looking good going in to the final twenty minutes, but McDavid turned it on with three points to send the Cats to a painful defeat. Florida spent the rest of the day watching New Jersey beat Los Angeles; Philadelphia come back to defeat Carolina; and Columbus edge Ottawa. The Cats now trail the Devils by five points for the final playoff spot in the east with two games in hand. Florida begins a stretch of seven of eight games on the road Monday night versus the Montreal Canadiens.
Condensed Game Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Gushers & Dusters
- The Panthers (23-0-0 coming in) lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods. The Oilers won in Sunrise for the ninth consecutive time, dating back to the 2002-03 season.
- Roberto Luongo had a second straight subpar outing, finishing with 32 saves. It wouldn’t be unfair to say two, or all three of the goals he allowed should have been stopped.
- Cam Talbot stopped 40 of the 42 shots he faced to post his 26th win and lowered his GAA to 2.98.
- Florida went 0-for-6 on the power play against Edmonton’s 29th-ranked penalty kill. Another key in the harmful matinee defeat.
- Connor McDavid’s three-point performance pulled him within two points of the NHL’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.
- The Panthers top line of Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Evgenii Dadonov combined for 13 shots on net, but failed to register a point.
- For more on the Oilers win that split the season series, check out Copper And Blue.