Panthers fall to Chicago 2-1 in the shootout as Rowe makes NHL coaching debut

Just over a day after head coach Gerard Gallant was fired by the Panthers, Tom Rowe took over and made his NHL debut behind the bench as he looked to begin turning things around for the young team. 

The Blackhawks struck first late in the 1st period as Richard Panik got in behind the defense after Jakub Kindl misplayed an airborne puck, but it was a decent start for the Panthers who were attempting to rebound from a tough start to the week.

New head coach Tom Rowe stated on Tuesday that he’d begin implementing a modified defensive zone system focused more on area coverage than man-to-man, and aside from some hiccups here and there, things seemed to work out fairly well, all things considered. There were certainly some mix-ups, but it was an improved approach to the defensive side of things for a Panthers team that has been inconsistent in their own zone through the first 22 games.

Jaromir Jagr got the tying goal for the Panthers on the power play – which went 1-for-3 on the night – at the start of the 3rd period, and that was it for both teams through regulation and overtime, where the Panthers had another power play alongside several chances at even strength.

“Jagr was unreal,” said Rowe. “[He] was unbelievable down low, he really tracked back on defensive assignments, and I thought he was really good on the wall in the defensive zone too.”

In the shootout, Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov were unable to convert for the Panthers while Artemi Panarin and Richard Panik scored for the Blackhawks to seal the deal. Roberto Luongo made 32 saves on 33 shots.

The Panthers had tons of chances during regulation, including several by Barkov who hasn’t been able to buy a goal at all. Corey Crawford robbed him on a one-timer in the 1st period, and Jagr was stopped in the 3rd at the top of the crease. Derek MacKenzie nearly scored in the 3rd too after Crawford fell in his crease with the puck sitting in the high slot. Ekblad had two consecutive chances in the overtime period to end the game, but he was at the end of a long shift.

“I think we’re moving forward and we’re moving in the right direction with the way we played today,” said Ekblad. “If you see the way we played today, there’s no doubt that we had a good game.”

On the bright side, the Panthers were creating offense, although they’ll need to get around to putting them into the net at some point. Rowe was pleasantly surprised by the Panthers’ performance and felt it was a game where they should’ve had the 2 points when everything was said and done.

Said Rowe: “We earned a point and actually, I thought we deserved two points. It didn’t work in our favor, but we have a lot to build on.”

The Panthers will practice for the first time since the coaching change on Wednesday in Detroit before facing the Red Wings on Thursday. Detroit is coming off a 3-1 win over the Stars on Tuesday, although they’ve lost 5 of their last 8 games. The Panthers have lost 3 of their last 4 games, but had wins in 3 of 4 before that.

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