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Recap: Big guns remain silent as Panthers fall to Bruins 2-1 in overtime

Cats waste solid effort by Driedger in his return from injury

NHL: Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After a very long team meeting on Wednesday, one that delayed the team’s scheduled practice by almost an hour, the Florida Panthers came back to the ice Friday against a hot Boston Bruins team to try and salvage their season with a huge home win.

The win did not come, but some signs of life did.

The Bruins would top the Panthers 2-1 in overtime as Torey Krug would put a blistering slap shot past netminder Chris Driedger with just under a minute remaining in the extra frame.

Whatever was said in the meeting on Wednesday seems to have put a burr in some of the player’s saddles, as the Cats had a pretty solid effort through most of the game. A slow start to the first period would contribute to a big shot lead for the Bruins when the period came to a close, but thanks to Driedger the Panthers would make it out of the first tied at nil.

Florida would open the scoring off a nice one-timer from Mackenzie Weegar at 6:55 in the second period. Brett Connolly picked up the puck off the wall and found Weegar between the circles up high, and he took no time in getting the shot off to beat an out of position Jaroslav Halak for his sixth of the season.

The Panthers would get into some penalty trouble in the second, including dodging a five minute major off an errant Evgenii Dadonov elbow to the head of Brandon Carlo. Giving the second-best power play team in the NHL three straight chances to score on the man advantage is not the best recipe for success, and the Bruins did convert on one of them as Patrice Bergeron tipped a point shot in to knot the game up at one.

The third would see both teams trade chances, with Florida having some really great ones, but they could not sneak one past Halak and the game would head to the always exciting 3-on-3.

Aleksander Barkov had the game in the bag in overtime as he managed to get in alone on Halak, but as we’ve seen so many times this season, the star center just couldn’t finish his chance, and with just under a minute in the extra frame frame, Krug ripped a shot past Driedger to give the Bruins a fourth straight win.

This was an encouraging effort for the Panthers, but a loss is still a loss, and regardless of the effort on the ice the results are still not there. The Cats seem to play a good defensive game but can’t score, or they play a porous defensive game and put four or five in the opposition’s net. At this point in the season the team still lacks a clear identity, and I think we’ll see more of the same until this season mercifully ends.

Pahk tha cah over by Stanley Cup of Chowder to get some Bruins perspective, and join us here Saturday for a GameThread as the Panthers take on Montreal in another home affair at the BB&T Center.

Observations

  • Driedger saw his first NHL action since January 16th, and he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He was solid throughout and the only two goals scored on him would’ve beaten nearly any keeper. Florida could really use a hot hand in net as the club tries to chase down the Leafs in their pursuit for third in the Atlantic, and at this point it looks like Driedger’s the guy.
  • MacKenzie Weegar scored the only goal for the Panthers and had a pretty solid game overall. The goal was his 6th and you wonder how good of a season he could’ve had without the injuries. The Panthers defenseman is going to be an RFA after this season, and it’s likely the club retains him, but with so much cap space being eaten up by other defensive contracts, it’ll be interesting to see if the sides can find a good number together.
  • Bergeron just doesn’t seem to be slowing down at 34 years of age. He’s still a key component to one of the top lines in hockey and did a masterful job defensively against the Cats, and won 58% of his draws to boot. Gotta respect his game.
  • Connolly had an assist on the Weegar goal early in the game, but was mostly invisible thereafter, only registering two shots and no scoring chances. He was also caught out of position on the game-winning goal in OT as he dropped low to cover Krug, but did not cycle back high to continue coverage, leaving him wide open for the game-winning blast. The Panthers are paying too much money to have Connolly be driftwood, and he needs to be much better if the Cats are going to make any kind of run at the playoffs.
  • I miss the Barkov of old, who was nearly money on breakaways and shootouts. There’s been talk all season of the forward playing with an injury, which seems very credible based on what we’ve all seen from him this season. I hope whatever the injury is, if there is indeed one, he gets it resolved properly in the offseason and he returns to form next season.