Recap: First line clicks in Panthers 5-3 over Senators

Verhaeghe, Barkov and Tkachuk combine for nine points

The Florida Panthers set a franchise record for shots and found some goals along the way in an exciting 5-3 victory over the improved Ottawa Sentors at FLA Live Arena.

Florida’s recently assembled first line of Carter Verhaeghe, Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk combined for four goals and nine points.

To be fair, Tkachuk empty-netter clincher came off a very unselfish play from third line center Anton Lundell. However, Brandon Montour’s game-winner with 3:32 left in regulation was set up by Barkov and Tkachuk, with each collecting their second helper of the matinee show. Montour scored for the second game in a row when Barkov threw the puck into the slot for him to rip home off the post with the Cats applying furious pressure on Anton Forsberg.

Verhaeghe opened the scoring 7:59 into the first with a top shelf snipe after receiving a beautiful, spinning backhand, cross-ice feed from Tkachuk, who drew two Senators to him after taking a nice backhand dish from Montour as they crossed the blue line. An electrifying play all around, started off by a crisp outlet pass by Barkov.

Barkov finally got his first of the season 3:55 later, beating Forsberg with a wrister from the top of the right circle after Verhaghe harried Nikita Zaitsev into turning the puck over to Tkachuk, who passed over to the captain. Barkov, looked at feeding Montour, but took the more aggressive approach and it paid off for a rare power-play goal, the team’s fourth of the season.

Despite getting out-shot 26-4 in the first, Forsberg’s Herculean effort kept his club close and the Senators found new life in the second and quickly tied the score after Claude Giroux set up Shane Pinto for an easy one-timer from the right circle 37 seconds in, with Radko Gudas off for holding, and then Brady Tkachuk got loose to take a bounce pass off the boards from Drake Batherson and smoked one by Spencer Knight, who seemed to be a bit off his angle, from the left dot at the 3:23 mark.

Another pretty passing play put the Panthers back on top with 37 seconds left in the frame. Bsrkov gained the line on the left side, sent the puck in the middle to Montour, who quickly moved it on to Verhaeghe and he rifled a shot off the near-side post and in.

Nick Holden, who had the secondary assist on Tkachuk’s goal, drew pesky Ottawa even again when he solved Knight 11:56 into third with a long shot through traffic after Tyler Motte fed him at the right point seconds after a hit from behind on Marc Staal went uncalled.

Montour shattered the tie 4:32 later to give the Cats a much-needed win and one they fully deserved. Afternoon games have a tendency to be rather sleepy affairs, but this one was anything but. The teams combined for eight goals, with each club having a goal rightly waived off (the Senators for goaltender interference - the Panthers for offsides), and Florida’s offense, continuing on from the Philadelphia game, was absolutely cooking throughout. After ten games  under new head coach Paul Maurice, the Panthers are 5-3-1. A respectable number considering all the turnover and the loss of Aaron Ekblad, but they they’ll have to better that pace to ensure a playoff spot at the end of the season.

Law & Order

  • The Panthers registered a franchise-record 58 shots on goal. Florida’s 109 shots over their past two tilts are also their most in a two-game span in club history.
  • Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett led the Cats with seven shots apiece. Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Montour and Radko Gudas each registered six.
  • After having his five-game goal-scoring streak stopped by the Minnesota WIld, Shane Pinto got right back at it and notched his sixth goal with the secondary assist going to fellow rookie Jake Sanderson. Pinto was initially credited with the third Ottawa goal before it was given over to Nick Holden.
  • Spencer Knight finished with 23 saves on 26 shots to run his record to a perfect 3-0 on the young season. Knight has a 2.67 GAA and .906 save percentage.
  • Hats off to Anton Forsberg. He took the loss, but looked really good in doing so, stopping 53 shots (.930) to keep his outplayed team in the game.
  • No goals and two assists for Sam Reinhart in a nine-game segment that he would probably like to forget.
  • The Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak and upped the Senators skid to two games. Read more about it at Silver Seven Sens./