Panthers fizzle out in 3-2 loss to Hurricanes

Cats’ latest defeat costs Gerard Gallant his job

Season long disturbing trends (blown leads, lack of goals, defensive lapses, making unheralded goalies look like All-Star) continued last night in Raleigh as the Florida Panthers were beaten 3-2 by the Carolina Hurricanes to open a six-game road trip.

After squeaking out a win against Columbus on Saturday, the Panthers got off to a quick start against the Hurricanes.

Jonathan Marchessault opening the scoring with is team-leading tenth goal at the 5:41 mark with Cats on a power play. Aleksander Barkov fed Jaromir Jagr in front for an attempt and Marchessault was able to pounce on the rebound and put it home.

The Cats extended their lead 4:10 later when Aaron Ekblad continued his recent goal-scoring binge. After gaining the zone after a Carolina turnover, Barkov pulled up and passed back to Ekblad whose shot appeared to get stopped by Michael Leighton, but somehow popped free and into the back of the net.

The wheels came off in the second period as the Hurricanes exploded fro three goals in a 3:28 span to take a lead they would not relinquish.

Viktor Stalbeg took advantage of some weak coverage from Jussi Jokinen to smack Matt Tennyson’s backhand pass from behind the net between the legs of James Reimer 4:28 into the frame. Andrej Nestrasil picked up the second assist on the play.

After collecting a rebound of Leighton stop, Victor Rask sent Jeff Skinner away for a breakaway goal 1:51 later. Skinner got behind Jakub Kindl and Aaron Ekblad and schooled Reimer with a nice backhand finish.

Journeyman Derek Ryan struck the decisive blow at 8:49 with a power-play goal. Ryan collected a loose puck after a face-off scrum and fired past Reimer for his first of the season with lone assist going to Skinner.

The Panthers still had half the game to equalize, but they failed to do so. Leighton, recently up from AHL Charlotte, made 10 of his 31 stops in the third period to win his first start of the season.

When the Cats play next in Chicago on Tuesday, it will be without head coach Gerard Gallant and assistant coach Mike Kelly, who were fired after the game. General manager Tom Rowe will behind the bench against the Blackhawks. Will the move provide the Cats with a much-needed jolt or will they remain the same inconsistent bunch we’ve seen the first quarter of the season.

Wind & Water

  • After scoring in the first two games of 2016-17, Aleksander Barkov has now gone twenty games without a goal. The Cats pivot does have six helpers in his last five outings.
  • Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,651 career tilt, tying him with Chris Chelios with fifth all-time in NHL history. Jagr will tie Mark Recchi for fourth the next time he suits up.
  • Michael Leighton win was his first in the NHL in almost six years. Leighton’s last victory came when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, a 7-4 decision over the Los Angeles Kings on December 30, 2010.
  • Jonathan Marchessault’s power-play goal broke a string of twenty-five straight kills by Carolina. The marker gave Marchessault his first career ten-goal season.
  • James Reimer made 24 stops and fell back below the .500 mark at 3-4-1.
  • Defenseman Aaron Ekblad now has goals in four of his last seven games.
  • Take a trip through Canes Country for the other side of game one of the season series between these two former Southeast Division rivals./