No Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight? No problem! Alex Lyon made 29 saves to backstop the Florida Panthers to a scrappy 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild that saw Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett and Gustav Forsling leave the tilt with injuries. Only Forsling returned, and he ended up bagging the eventual game-winning goal in the third period.
After getting his first win with the Panthers on Thursday in Montreal, the 30-year-old Lyon delivered another strong performance in his first-ever start with Florida to collect his second.
The Panthers held the Wild off in the early portion of the first and slowly tilted the ice before opening the scoring with 13 seconds left in the frame. Sam Reinhart came up with a steal as Minnesota was trying to exit its zone. Aleksander Barkov took the puck from Reinhart, who fell down, and found Anton Lundell alone in front and he spun around to get on his forehand and slipped a shot through the pads of Filip Gustavsson.
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The @FlaPanthers score to close out the first period tonight!
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Another Wild miscue led to Florida’s second goal 1:40 into the second stanza. Eetu Luostarinen hit double-digit goals for the first time in his career by pouching the puck from Sam Steel, cutting into the slot and solving Gustavsson with a backhand.
Minnesota executed some pretty power-play passing to get one by Lyon at the 8:55 mark. Matt Boldy finished with authority after Joel Eriksson Ek deflected Kirill Kaprizov pass across the crease for the easy put-away with Carter Verhaeghe off for slashing.
Verhaeghe would restore the Panthers two-goal lead with a power-play goal of his own with 28 seconds left in the frame. Matthew Tkachuk took a hit on the right boards, but managed to throw the puck back to Brandon Montour, who slid it over to Verhaghe in the left circle. Verhaeghe snapped off a low shot that found its way through Gustavsson’s five-hole, giving him his 22nd of the season.
The pesky Wild pulled within a goal again, courtesy of a tripping call on Josh Mahura. After playing catch with Calen Addison up high, Kaprizov unleashed a hard wrister that Lyon blunted. Unfortunately, Erikkson Ek was able to quickly slash the rebound over the goalie 4:37 into the third.
After departing in the second period, Forsling returned for the start of the third and came up with a huge goal at 7:51 to give the Cats some breathing room. Nick Cousins unsuccessfully crashed the net after a strong rush to start things off. After first taking a whack at Cousins’ rebound and getting stopped by Gustavsson, Grigori Denisenko took possession behind the right side of the net and flipped the puck back out to Forsling in the left circle. Forsling gloved the puck down and then sent a knuckling shot off the post and in to turn on the red light.
Minnesota clawed back with a 1:26 remaining when Jared Spurgeon drove a shot off the heel of Tkachuk’s stick blade and just over the glove of the helpless Lyon with the assists going to Boldy and Kaprizov.
Reinhart clinched it with an empty-netter with 39 ticks left after Marc Staal knocked the puck away from Boldy deep in his own zone and Lundell got it up to Barkov, who made a unselfish cross to his winger, allowing Samson to put it home from just outside the Minnesota blue line.
It wasn’t without its warts, but that was a very gritty win by the Panthers, who after another one-off at home, hit the road again to visit the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Down to their third string goalie, already missing Eric Staal and down three dressed skaters at times, the Cats kept the effort up and managed to stay just ahead of the Wild for the final 40:13 of what turned to be a hard-fought and enjoyable game to watch. The Panthers have points in five straight and are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. They trail the Penguins, who have three games in hand, by two points If Florida manages to find their way into the playoffs, these two games taken with Lyon in the night will likely loom large.
Spiders & Snakes
- The Panthers got goals in the final minute of each period to help them capture two key points. Way to play to the buzzer, boys!
- Eleven Panthers collected a point during the game with Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell leading the way with each of the first line wings producing a goal and an assist.
- Filip Gustavsson arrived in Sunrise with a sparkling 2.16 goals against average. The Cats beat him four times on 26 shots.
- After scoring nine times in 78 games in 2021-22, Eetu Luostarinen notched his career-high tenth goal in his 48th game this season.
- Kirill Kaprizov had a hand in all three Wild goals, so he was the only skater to finish with three points. That said, the Cats didn’t allow him to light the lamp and limited him to a single shot on goal.
- Aaron Ekblad only played 1:50 because of an upper-body injury, and Sam Bennett left midway through for the same reason. Paul Maurice said each could play on Monday in New York. We could also see Spencer Knight at Madison Square Garden. Knight posted a 23-save shutout in the Charlotte Checkers 9-0 rout of the Cleveland Monsters yesterday.
- For more on Florid’s latest home ice win, trudge on over to Hockey Wilderness.