Panthers’ special teams falter in 2-1 loss to the Bruins

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

In an important divisional matchup against the Bruins, the Panthers were looking to begin stringing wins together after Sunday’s offensive explosion in Detroit. 

The Panthers put themselves behind the 8-ball early in the 1st period by allowing Brad Marchand to get in behind the defense and force a penalty shot. The 28-year old converted easily as his shot fake caused Roberto Luongo, who made 24 saves on 26 shots, to bite, allowing Marchand to go to the backhand about 4 minutes into the period.

Dominic Moore got the Bruins’ second goal of the game in the 2nd period after the Panthers turned over the puck at the defensive zone blue-line which allowed the veteran forward to skate in and go top shelf from an absurd angle. A shot like that while the Panthers are on the power play is something you’d like to see Luongo save even though the Bruins should’ve never had the chance in the first place.

“I need to be better, I need to make saves,” said Luongo. “I can’t let in deflating goals like that; it changes the momentum of the game.”

The Panthers would go on to dominate the rest of the 1st as they attempted 13 shots while holding the Bruins to 0. A handful of chances would present themselves to the Panthers, including a breakaway by Mike Matheson where the puck roll of his stick, a one-timer from the right face-off circle by Shane Harper, and many others from Mark Pysyk who was extremely active early on.

Denis Malgin scored his first career NHL goal late in the 3rd period as the Panthers started to turn things on again offensively. A great effort behind the net by Kyle Rau allowed the puck to get to the point where Jason Demers sent it to Keith Yandle. He would then fake a shot and pass to Malgin in the slot who then picked the top left corner.

Said Malgin: “I had many chances and I didn’t score. Now, I finally scored. It’s nice, but we lost, and that’s bad.”

The story of the night, however, was the Panthers’ inability to convert on the power play which was more like a power outage going 0 for 7. Chances were had here and there, but overall, the Panthers struggled against the aggressive penalty kill of the Bruins and failed to win battles along the boards.

“I don’t think we struggled tonight,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “The power play struggled tonight. That’s what really hurt us, but the team played really well.”

Power play struggles have seemingly gone hand-in-hand with the Panthers’ having difficulties finishing off their chances. Lots of plays are being forced despite wide open shooting lanes and unnecessary passes have been blocked and turned the other way by the opposition.

“[The Bruins] did a good job of not letting us get set up, but we’ve obviously got to take responsibility and be able to score when we get seven opportunities,” said defenseman Keith Yandle.

This changed in the 3rd period as just about every puck went towards the net as part of a game-high 27 shot attempts. Overall, the possession game was controlled by the Panthers at 70 to 38, but tons of shots were blocked by the Bruins and Tuukka Rask had no trouble seeing any of them.

“It was a good effort for the most part,” said Gallant. “We had a lot of chances in that first period and couldn’t capitalize. Tuukka Rask was the difference, obviously. He played a great game.”

The next game for the Panthers will be at home on Thursday against the Devils at 7:30 PM. When the two teams meet, the Devils will not have played in nearly a week since defeating the Lightning 3-1 on Saturday. Three straight goals from Adam Henrique, Damon Severson, and Devante Smith-Pelly were enough in front of a 31-save effort from Cory Schneider.

The Panthers defeated the Devils back on Opening Night 2-1 in overtime when Aleksander Barkov scored the game-winner.

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