The Panthers have done a good job of bouncing back after tough losses, and that was exactly what they needed to do after Thursday night’s pummeling at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Scoring came early and often to propel the Panthers past the Senators on Saturday.
Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring with his second goal of the season and first in a month when Aleksander Barkov sent him a cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1 which he swatted through the legs of Craig Anderson. Barkov proceeded to set up Jokinen in the slot for a wrist shot that found it’s way past Anderson just under 12 minutes later to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Jonathan Marchessault made it 3-0 in the 2nd period with his team-leading 9th goal of the season by hitting a bouncing puck top shelf from close range. The Senators got within 2 when Jean-Gabriel Pageau snuck the puck past Roberto Luongo and the post from below the goal line in the 3rd, but Derek MacKenzie scored his 2nd goal of the season and 100th point of his career less than 5 minutes later to regain the Panthers’ 3-goal lead and secure the victory.
Luongo kept the Panthers in the game the entire night by making 39 saves on 40 shots with many of them being grade-A chances. His best save of the game came in the 2nd period when he stopped a one-timer on a cross-ice pass by stretching out with his blocker, and shortly after, he stopped consecutive chances at the doorstep with his pad and then glove hand on the ensuing rebound.
“He was outstanding, he gave us a chance to win the hockey game,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “Some of the saves [Luongo] made, we left him out to dry on quite a few chances and we didn’t clear out any of the 2nd or 3rd chances. He was [all of the] 3 stars of the game for me.”
“He stole one here for us tonight,” said captain Derek MacKenzie of Luongo’s performance.
Jokinen returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s game against Toronto, and Shawn Thornton suited up for his 2nd game of the season on the 4th line with Jared McCann and Derek MacKenzie. Dylan McIlrath, who is apparently sick with the flu bug going around the team, sat out in favor of Jakub Kindl making season debut. Kyle Rau and Greg McKegg were the other forward scratches, although it’s unclear if they’re sick too.
Ottawa killed Florida in the shot attempt department tonight, and although defensive errors were low, the Panthers were pinned in their own zone on several occasions, and that allowed the Senators to fire away. Mark Pysyk, who was paired with Mike Matheson, was the team’s most impressive defenseman tonight and did a solid job of blocking shots, clearing pucks away from the from of the net, and getting the puck out of the defensive zone.
“They a ton of shots and they really hounded us,” said Jason Demers.
“I think we took advantage of our opportunities tonight,” said Luongo. “I don’t think by any means we thought we played a great game as a team.”
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Panthers who will face the New York Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers were defeated 4-2 by the Blue Jackets on Friday night with Michael Grabner and Mika Zibanejad scoring in front of Henrik Lundqvist who made 20 saves on 23 shots.