|@ Panthers (26-15-5)||0||0||2||2|
The Barkov-Jagr-Huberdeau line accounted for the Oilers’ speed and got some decent shots in early on. Some roaring boos from the fans incited a fight between Matt Hendricks and Erik Gudbranson, in which Gudbranson absolutely pummeled Hendricks. He had it coming after all he did to the Panthers in the two teams’ last meeting. The two got five minutes each for fighting. Even though the Panthers got the first shots, they did not get the first goal. That award went to Taylor Hall, who scored on the breakaway at 5:50 into the game. The goal was scored on their first shot. The Panthers kept pushing to tie up the game but were unable to do so by the halfway point of the period. The Panthers finally got a power play opportunity when Benoit Pouliot was penalized for holding. The Cats got some decent shots in, but the Oilers did too and by doing so, they effectively killed the penalty. With two minutes left in the period, the Oilers widened their lead on a Jordan Eberle goal. Where did the defense go? The Panthers would get one last power play chance when Darnell Nurse was penalized on a holding call. The penalty would carry over into the second. At the end of the period, the Oilers led the Panthers 2-0 but the Panthers held the edge in shots on goal 9-6. This was not a good period for the Panthers: They just need to shoot the puck. Their power play has been abysmal and it wasn’t so evident during the win streak but now that the grass isn’t so green, the power play problems are becoming extreme. If this problem isn’t rectified, everything will continue to go south for the Panthers.
The Panthers were unable to score on the power play that carried over from the first period but due to the Oilers’ overconfidence, Andrej Sekera was penalized for interference and they got another chance. Of course, the Panthers couldn’t score on this one either. In fact, Taylor Hall was able to score yet again and a Panthers comeback seemed less and less likely. The Panthers actually were getting the puck to the net more than they had been in the first period, but they weren’t accounting for Cam Talbot’s sharp play. As unimaginable as this would be a few years ago, the Panthers just aren’t the Panthers without Ekblad. With 7:39 left in the period, Jaromir Jagr was penalized for tripping and the Panthers had to kill their first penalty of the game. Thankfully, this penalty kill was short-lived because the Oilers had too many men on the ice. The Panthers actually had some decent chances on their truncated power play but the puck somehow stayed out of the net. At the end of the period, the Panthers trailed 3-0 but led in shots on goal 23-15. The Panthers played a better offensive game this period but there were two big problems with that: their defense suffered and the better offensive game still was not good enough. The Panthers would be entering the third frame with a three goal disadvantage, one that no team wants to have.
This period definitely started off better than the last two. Reilly Smith scored just three minutes into the frame to put the Panthers on the board. Nail Yakupov had a breakaway opportunity just seconds after but Al Montoya stopped it. The Panthers were buzzing now! A couple of shots more shots were blocked but Cam Talbot can’t stop everything. The speedy Quinton Howden was able to make this a one goal game just minutes later. The goal was assisted by Shawn Thornton and Brian Campbell. In fact, it was Shawn Thornton’s skillful pass that allowed the goal to occur. Something must have snapped into place in the locker room because this was win streak Panthers that the fans were seeing. The Cats didn’t stay this hot the whole period though. Their domination subsided with five minutes left in the game and it became clear that something fairly major would need to happen for the Panthers to tie up the game. Sadly, they didn’t get that something that they needed. The Panthers were getting great shots in with two minutes left and Al Montoya felt safe to head to the bench but he found himself racing back when the Oilers got the puck. It was too late though, and Teddy Purcell scored. The Panthers lost another game, this time 4-2.
Reilly Smith and Quinton Howden successfully pumped up a lifeless team by scoring a few minutes apart from each other. Erik Gudbranson may have been injured but he did so while knocking Matt Hendricks down a peg and for that, he should be praised.
The Florida Panthers will continue their four day road trip on Friday, January 22nd at 7:30 pm ET against the Chicago Blackhawks. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.