Already down number one goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Florida Panthers lost number two Chris Dreidger midway through the first period of last night’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. No worries folks, three is a magic number after all.
Next man up Sam Montembeault stopped 23 of 26 shots in relief for the Panthers, who opened up a four-goal lead before surviving a furious late comeback attempt by the Kings.
Los Angeles scored three times in a 5:38 span of the second half of the third period to make things a little too close for comfort for the hosts before departing the Sunshine State with another hard-fought loss after a dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Evgenii Dadonov became the first Cat to hit twenty goals, when he capped off a pretty passing play that saw Aleksander Barkov go cross-ice to Jonathan Huberdeau, who centered back to Dadonov for the easy put-away. All five Panthers on the ice touched the puck on this beautiful power-play goal that came 6:04 into the first period with Austin Wagner off for holding.
Florida doubled its lead 3:06 into the second when Dominic Toninato tracked down Mike Hoffman’s pass, which initially bounced off his skate in the Panthers zone, and found Frank Vatrano with a sweet dish for a one-timer that beat Jack Campbell low, glove-side.
The Cats would tack on another power-play goal at the 4:55 mark of third. After a little scrum following a face-off, Derek Forbert backhanded the puck from the slot towards the side boards. Aaron Ekblad collected the vulcanized rubber and crisply sent it over to Mike Matheson, who let go off a screaming one-timer from the right point that beat a screened Campbell.
A nice piece of work from Brian Boyle provided Florida with it’s fourth and final goal, which at time seemed rather meaningless, but turned out to be of the utmost importance. Boyle used his long reach to poke the puck loose as the Kings were exiting their zone. Hoffman came up with possession and was quickly stripped, leaving the puck free for Boyle, who alertly swooped in to fire a wrister home for his sixth of the season.
Boyle’s goal turned out to be the game-winner, his first as a Panther, as Los Angeles roared back with a deflection goal from Alex Iafallo at 11:42 and power-play goals 2:12 apart from Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar. Kopitar’s goal came with 2:40 left in regulation and Campbell off to make it a two-man-advantage.
In the dying seconds Montembeault came up a save on Tyler Toffoli’s one-timer and Boyle made a huge sliding block on Kopitar to help the Panthers hang on by the skin of their fangs.
Florida won’t be happy with the final ten minutes off this one, with penalties (to Boyle and Josh Brown), lost defensive zone draws and poor defending combining to almost allow the Kings to send the game to overtime. That said, they played very well for the first fifty and held on to get an important win that puts them one point behind Carolina and Columbus, who hold down the two wild card spots, and two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic. The Cats have two games in hand on the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets and one on the Hurricanes.
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Baubles & Bits
- With the secondary assist on Frank Vatrano’s goal. red-hot Mike Hoffman extended his point streak to seven games. Hoffman has nine points (5G/4A) since we rang in the new year.
- Speaking of Vatrano, he scored in back-to-back games for the second time this season. With four goals in seven January games, Frank The Tank is on a roll.
- In addition to scoring the final Kings goal, Anze Kopitar drew assists on the other two to finish with three points,
- Drew Doughty, Tyler Toffoli, Nikolai Prokhorkin and Dustin Brown were the other La La Land players that collected assists.
- Emergency recall Sam Montembeault picked up his first NHL win since beating the Boston Bruins on November 12. Chris Dreidger left the game after 9:55 with 4 saves with a lower body injury that doesn’t seem too serious.
- Jewels From The Crown will have the other side of the latest Cats win, once you account for that three hour thing.