Recap: Panthers use balanced attack to crush Red Wings 5-1

Victorious Cats creep closer to a wild card spot

The Florida Panthers returned home for a one-off at FLA Live Arena and crushed the Detroit Red Wings 5-1, moving within a point of the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot.

After dominating most of the first period, the Panthers got on the board at 18:05 when a bad line change by Detroit opened up space for Chris Tierney, who took a head-man pass from Marc Staal, to break in on Alex Nedeljkovic and whip a backhander through his pads for his first of the season.

The Cats added to the lead at 1:47 of the second when Sam Reinhart carried end-to-end before dropping the puck to Aleksander Barkov. Barkov, finally back after missing six games, took a couple of strides into the high slot and snapped a shot that got deflected down off the ice and in by Eetu Luostarinen.

Florida would tack on another 58 seconds after Luostarinen lit the lamp. The Red Wings dumped the puck into the neutral zone after a defensive zone draw, Aaron Ekblad collected and advanced to Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk sent Sam Bennett over the line and he blasted a shot from the right circle that Nedeljkovic couldn’t handle. Trailer Josh Mahura pounced on the rebound and fired it into the beckoning net for his third of the season.

Jonatan Berggren got the only Red Wings goal at 8:08 with just two ticks left on a Reinhart slashing minor. Sergei Bobrovsky made a save on Lucas Raymond’s wrister, but Andrew Copp was able to chip the rebound up and over to Berggren, who knocked it home.

Matt Kiersted would pick up his first of the season at the 14:52 mark. After taking an outlet pass from Eric Staal, Nick Cousins worked his way from right to left across the top of the offensive zone before floating a high shot towards Nedeljkovic. Kiersted bumped Nedeljkovic, who couldn’t glove the puck, boxed out Gustav Lindstrom and pushed the rebound past the tangled-up goaltender to put the Cats back up by three.

Tkachuk completed the scoring 45 seconds later after getting sprung by Carter Verhaeghe and choosing to hold on to the puck and shoot with Bennett joining him late on a 2-on-2 rush. The Panthers leading scorer dangled and then sent a perfectly placed, rising shot over Nedeljkovic’s blocker to turn on the red light. Ekblad was credited with the secondary assist on Tkachuk’s 13th goal, which gave the former Flame his 13th multipoint game of the campaign.

Bobrovksy stopped all five Detroit shots in the third to finish with 19 saves and pick up his fifth victory. It was the veteran keeper’s first win since November 15, when a backstopped a 5-2 decision over the Washington Capitals.

The Panthers played one of their best games of the season, outshooting the Red Wings 41-20 and limiting them to a single goal to make the third period one they could get through on cruise control. 13 of Florida’s 18 skaters picked up a point during the one-sided affair, with Tkachuk the only one to get two. Kudos to Paul Maurice for leaving the red-hot line of Tkachuk, Bennett and Verhaeghe together. The Cats will get a day off before heading over to the gulf coast for tomorrow afternoon’s battle of the reverse retros with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gears & Lug nuts

  • Matthew Tkachuk has put up three goals and five assists during a four-game point streak. He leads the Panthers with 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 25 games.
  • Aleksander Barkov returned after missing six games with a non-COVID illness. He had one assist, two shots on goal, a block and won 11 of 19 face-offs in 17:12 of ice time.
  • After getting an assist in his Florida debut in Winnipeg, Chris Tierney got his first NHL goal since he scored as a member of the Ottawa Senators on February 8.
  • Detroit rookie Jonatan Berggren has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his first 13 NHL games. He put up 64 points in 70 AHL games last season with Grand Rapids.
  • Checker Alex Lyon served as Sergei Bobrovsky’s backup with Spencer Knight out with a non-COVID illness. Center Anton Lundell missed the game for the same reason.
  • For the other side of Florida’s big win, you gotta lose your mind at Winging It In Motown. /