Another tough game was on the horizon for the Panthers in the second game of a back-to-back set, but that wasn’t evident when they faced the Rangers on Sunday night. A comeback effort led the Panthers to their 2nd straight victory over a tenacious conference foe.
The Panthers entered Sunday night’s game coming off a win in Ottawa where they didn’t feel as though they played their best hockey. The Senators pummeled them in shots and shot attempts and Roberto Luongo kept them in the mix for the duration of the game. Tonight was similar in that James Reimer bounced back from his shaky start in Toronto on Thursday and kept the Panthers in the game with 35 saves on 37 shots while the team controlled shot attempts at the end of the night.
After a decent start to the 1st period, which included the Panthers slowing the Rangers through the neutral zone and at the defensive zone blue line, a miscue allowed Chris Kreider to get in alone and put a perfect wrist shot top-shelf on Reimer. In the 2nd period, Keith Yandle scored his first goal as a Panther on his former team with a slap-shot from the point on the power play to tie the game, but Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers the lead again at the beginning of the 3rd with a no-look backhanded shot across the crease that went in off skates in front.
The Panthers continued to push in the 3rd period, and Aaron Ekblad broke through with a point shot that deflected off a Ranger in front of him and bounced over the left pad and glove of Henrik Lundqvist. The momentum continued into the overtime period where the Panthers were all over the Rangers at several points, and Reimer came up huge again as he stopped a one-timer from in close with around a minute remaining.
The shootout belonged entirely to the Panthers as Reimer stopped Mats Zuccarello and Brandon Pirri, who tried his signature move that he capitalized on so often in Florida, while Vincent Trocheck scored before a sweet game-winner by Aleksander Barkov.
Most weren’t expecting the game to be as even as it was or for the Panthers to win the way they did, but it wouldn’t have happened without the strong play of Reimer or the improved defensive zone play. The Rangers weren’t able to get as many second or third chances as the Senators did on Saturday and the Panthers’ offensive zone attack was more consistent overall, allowing them to finish their 4-game road trip with a record of 3-1-0. Mark Pysyk was impressive once again and led the Panthers’ defense in ice time and CF% at 63 while Jussi Jokinen lead the entire team at mind-blowing 68%.
The Panthers have now won 4 of their last 5 games, 6 of their last 9, and will head home to face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time this season at home on Tuesday. The Flyers faced the Lightning on Saturday and were shutout 3-0 at home with Steve Mason allowing 3 goals on 18 shots.