The Florida Panthers lost another close one, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Calgary Flames that extended the struggling club’s losing streak to five games.
Florida opened the scoring 6:18 into the first period when Denis Malgin forced Noah Hanifin to give the puck away behind his own net to Mike Hoffman. Hoffman quickly curled in front and beat David Rittich for his 21st of the season, The goal was unassisted, but good work by Malgin to force the turnover.
The opening stanza ended with Cats up a goal as Sam Bennett caught the iron after he worked his way around MacKenzie Weegar and Rittich just got a skate on Hoffman’s late power-play shot from the slot,
Keith Yandle sprung Jonathan Huberdeau on a breakaway and he snapped the puck between Rittich’s pads twenty seconds into the middle frame to put the Panthers up by two. Roberto Luongo drew the secondary assist on the power-play marker.
The second half of the game belonged to Calgary, and a familiar face, as they would run off four-straight goals on their way to victory.
Former Panther Michael Frolik got away from Micheal Haley and deflected Mikael Backlund shot/pass by Luongo at the 10:14 mark.
Frolik would corral Travis Hamonic’s long, hard pass off the boards and go cross ice to defenseman Mark Giordano, who fired a shot home from just above the left circle off Luongo’s shoulder and in to tie the tilt 4:46 later. Luongo got bumped by Matthew Tkachuk, but the goal withstood a challenge from Bob Boughner.
Calgary would claim the lead 8;29 into the third period, thanks to the kind of mental mistake that has been killing the Panthers all season. With time and space to get the puck out of the zone, Huberdeau tried to make a touch pass back to Evgenii Dadonov instead and was picked off by Frolik, Frolik went down low to Tkachuk, who was camped out all alone in front as the Cats were caught up high, and he smacked the puck between Luongo legs.
The Panthers would pull Luongo for an extra attacker during a late Flames power play only to see Calgary win a defensive zone draw and bring the puck up ice, culminating in an empty-net goal for Sean Monahan, with high-scoring linemates Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm drawing the assists.
Florida would close the gap at 19:40 when Frank Vatrano took a pass from Aleksander Barkov and was denied on a backhand shot and then tried to score on a wraparound. Vatrano couldn’t finish, but Dadonov kept jamming away and got it to go in to complete the scoring.
2019 has not been kind to the Panthers, who are now 0-3-2 since we flipped the calendar. Four of the five losses have been by one goal and two of them have come in extra time. The Cats are good enough to play teams close (14 of their 26 losses have been by a single goal and I know some of the two-goal losses included an empty-netter), but not good enough to find ways to win, as they continue to be bedeviled by mental mistakes, turnovers, poor positioning, stoppable shots... you know, the fundamentals. Florida had three different leads in Edmonton and a two-goal lead in Calgary halfway through the game and couldn’t bear down and close. Not a good sign as they head to Vancouver for the middle game of the road trip.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)