A slashing call on Mark Pysyk 1:15 into the first period put the Ducks on a power play and they took advantage 14 seconds later when Ryan Getzlaf’s shot deflected off a screening Nick Ritchie and came right to Devin Shore in the slot and he fired it by Sam Montembeault.
After getting shutdown by John Gibson in the opening frame, the Panthers scored 11 seconds into the second to tie the game. The Cats controlled the opening face-off and moved into the Ducks end with Aleksander Barkov taking a bounce pass off the boards from Mike Matheson and ending up deep on the left side. Barkov sent a cross-ice pass to a streaking Jonathan Huberdeau, who backhanded the puck right on Evgenii Dadonov’s stick for an easy put-away. A beautiful bit of work by the Panthers, with all five players touching puck on the play.
The Cats would test Gibson 17 more times in the period, but they couldn’t capitalize and the Ducks grabbed the lead back at the 12:01 mark when Adam Henrique blocked MacKenzie Weegar’s shot from the point and took a bounce pass off the boards from Getzlaf and went the length off the ice before toe-dragging his way by Aaron Ekblad and beating Montembeault between his arm and body.
Florida would even things up for a second time 3:33 into third thanks to another pretty pass from Huberdeau. After working a give-and-go with Barkov in the neutral zone Huberdeau made his way to the slot and sent a hard pass to Ekblad, who was open on the right side, that the defenseman was able to steer over the goal line. The assist establish a new single-season record (55) for te Florida franchise.
Huberdeau came tantalizingly close to putting the Cats ahead a few later, but his nifty redirection of a Dadonov pass caught the far post and didn’t go in.
The Ducks came up with the winner with 4:43 left in regulation time. After Rickard Rakell worked the puck free behind the net. Matheson decided to go challenge him, leaving Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim’s leading goal-scorer, open in front of Montembeault. Matheson’s aggressive play failed as Rakell fought him off and centered in front and Silfverberg lifted a backhander high into the net before Barkov or Ekblad could get there to check him.
Keith Yandle came a whisker away from sending the game to overtime, but his drive from the point caught iron in the dying seconds.
Well, another frustrating defeat to a team sitting below the Panthers in the standings that keeps them eight points behind Columbus with just ten games to go for both teams. The Cats out-shot the Ducks by a big 39-22 margin, but couldn’t find the back of the net enough to win, with lines 2 through 4 producing no goals. Hats off to Gibson, but the Cats should have been able to seize the lead, they had the chances, but couldn’t do it. Despite the Cats stretches of dominance, the Ducks had some near misses of their own with Barkov preventing a sure goal in the first with a last second stick-lift and Matheson saving one in the second. Getzlaf rang a shot off the post in third as well. Montembeault (4-1-1) suffered his first loss in regulation time and finished with 19 saves, The Panthers will finish the roadie up in Dallas. A win in Big D would give them a 3-1 record on the trip, a mark that would usually be a rousing success, but the reality is the Panthers needed perfection and didn’t get it.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)