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Recap: Panthers shake off another slow start, top Devils 6-4

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Brett Connolly sparks comeback as Cats score five unanswered goals

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

After going down 4-1 early in the second period against the New Jersey Devils, it looked like another blowout was coming for the Florida Panthers, one akin to the 6-3 beat-down the Carolina Hurricanes applied earlier this season. The Panthers looked disjointed, body language belying their likely mentality of, “Here we go again.” Instead, for the first time this season Florida managed to come back and win in regulation, scoring five unanswered goals on the beleaguered Cory Schneider and denying New Jersey its first win of the season.

After Jonathan Huberdeau opened the scoring in the first 16 seconds with his first of the season, the Devils scored two to give the Cats a deficit heading into the second period. The Devils would come out and rip in two more goals early in the period, releasing the collective groans of all Panthers fans. However, if there’s a team to come back against this season, it’s New Jersey, and apparently Brett Connolly knew it. His two goals (first and second of the season) led the charge and Florida never looked back.

The Panthers kept shooting themselves in the foot all game, taking dumb penalties at key moments and breaking down on defense constantly. The message to focus on “simple hockey” from head coach Joel Quenneville clearly isn’t being heard, with tons of no-look drop passes, weak zone exits, ill-advised cross-ice passes and all kinds of other transgressions. If there’s a system implemented, the roster isn’t really playing it well, and you have to wonder how much longer Quenneville and GM Dale Tallon will let the roster as it stands today continue to drastically underachieve game after game for long stretches. The passion doesn’t look evident on the players right now for a full 60 minutes, something that absolutely has to change. Florida can not afford to be a team that spots its opponents big leads throughout the season and still hope to have success.

That said, they’ll take the two points and head home to prepare for the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The Panthers will have a few days to rest and practice and hopefully the energy level from the comeback against the Devils still resides in them on Friday evening at home.

Check out All About the Jersey if you’d like to hear the same complaints Panther fans have, only for a different team. See you Friday.

Observations

  • After being almost completely invisible through the first few games, Connolly showed up in a big way against the Devils, netting two goals off of some fantastically placed wristers. The Panthers really need scoring depth to even consider being a playoff team, and Connolly, Frank Vatrano and Vincent Trocheck have to be a big part of that depth.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky was once again hung out to dry on at least two goals, but he hasn’t looked exceptional either. His numbers so far this season are atrocious, but he’s also playing in front of one of the shakiest defensive teams in the NHL at the moment. He could be better, but it’s terribly hard to pin these games on his shoulder as he’s often alone on an island while the guys in front of him glide around watching.
  • Henrik Borgstrom got back in the lineup as Jayce Hawryluk was a healthy scratch, and he was a non-factor throughout the game. He’s had some decent linemates this season as the Quenneville line blender continues to churn the middle six, but he’s had very little chemistry with anyone and hasn’t looked confident out there. The sky’s the limit in terms of talent with Borgstrom, but he needs to put a bunch of complete games together to earn the trust of the coaching staff moving forward.
  • Mackenzie Weegar is quietly becoming perhaps the Panthers best defenseman so far this season. He’s played pretty solid minutes and isn’t being coddled anymore, getting some tough match-ups and producing some points when he’s able. Maybe it’s partially because he’s paired with Aaron Ekblad, who has been pretty steady in his own right, but Weegar is certainly passing the eye test.
  • The Panthers could benefit from casting the Keith Yandle and Josh Brown pairing into a fire. Yandle had some more of his commonplace egregious turnovers yet again, and he’s just an absolute liability no matter who he is paired up with. The Panthers power play benefits a lot when he’s able to be the quarterback, but at this point you can’t shelter him anymore than they already are. What to do?
  • While we’re discussing benefits, one other thing the Cats could majorly benefit from is hitting the net with wristers. I can’t count the number of wrist or snap shots that were over the net or wide of the net, leading to the Devils easily collecting the puck and generating speed the other way. If those are on net, and the Panthers crash the crease, good things will happen.