Slow start dooms Panthers in loss to Senators

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
It’s been a struggle for the Panthers to score goals as of late having only netted 6 during regulation in their last 6 games, and that includes Saturday night when they were handed a 2-0 loss by the Ottawa Senators. 

Offense has been incredibly hard to come by, and it certainly didn’t help that the Senators scored 2 quick goals early in the 1st period en route to the Panthers’ fourth loss in the past 6 games.

Erik Karlsson scored the Senators’ first goal when he went to the top of the crease uncontested and put a shot past Roberto Luongo.

The second and final goal of the game came 19 seconds later courtesy of Derick Brassard. He was left all alone at the front of the net and received a pass from Chris Wideman which he curled around Luongo.

Luongo made 19 saves on 21 shots while Mike Condon stopped al 24 shots he faced from the Panthers.

Although the Panthers were a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill, their power play was just the opposite at 0-for-4, including a 5-on-3 opportunity in the 2nd period.

The Senators made things work despite being without Bobby Ryan and Marc Methot while Buddy Robinson made his season debut and Andreas Englund made his NHL debut.

They came close to scoring a few times throughout the game, but overall, the Panthers struggled to get their forecheck going and weren’t able to get any second chances on Condon. Net-front traffic was kept to a minimum and sustained offensive zone pressure was hard to come by, however the Panthers did appear to control play during the second half.

Vincent Trocheck had a strong night as did Aleksander Barkov, but the rest of the Panthers’ forwards were largely ineffective for most of the night. Nick Bjugstad was moved back to center for the game while Denis Malgin slotted in on his right wing with Seth Griffith on the left side. The entire line has struggled, and the coaching staff hoped the moves would spark some offense with Bjugstad going back to his natural position.

There was a scary moment in the 2nd period when Jakub Kindl attempted to clear the puck out from the front of the crease and the puck accidentally hit Aaron Ekblad just below his right eye, leaving a large gash. Ekblad went off for some stitches and returned minutes later during a Panthers power play.

Jonathan Marchessault left the game in the 3rd period after he appears to suffer some sort of lower-body injury. Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Senators was skating towards Marchessault and their legs locked, pushing Marchessault’s outwards in an awkward fashion. He skated off on and went into the tunnel on his own but didn’t return. There was no immediate word on his condition.

The loss is the first in regulation for newly-appointed head coach Tom Rowe who already has an overtime win and shootout loss under his belt in the past 2 games. Upon being handed the coaching keys, Rowe stated that he wanted to implement defensive zone changes and shift to a system based more on area coverage rather than man-to-man, and it’s worked fairly well during the small sample of games he’s been at the helm for.

The Panthers are still working on executing the new system on a consistent basis, as the 2 goals allowed to the Senators were clear misses when it comes to assignments, but they’ve allowed just 4 goals in 3 games since Rowe took over without Luongo having to make too many big saves.

With Saturday’s loss already in the rear-view mirror, the Panthers will travel to the division-rival Boston Bruins on Monday in the first game of a back-to-back set and 5th game of their 6-game road trip. The Bruins defeated the Sabres in a Saturday matinee by a score of 2-1 with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron both recording their 4th goal of the season. Tuukka Rask made 35 saves on 36 shots in the win.

The two teams last met on November 1st when Denis Malgin tallied his first career NHL goal in a 2-1 loss at home.

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