Panthers’ overtime dominance ends with loss to Bruins

For the fifth game of a 6-game road trip, the Panthers packed their bags and headed to Boston where the division-rival Bruins were awaiting their arrival. 

For the 9th time in the last 12 games, the Panthers allowed the first goal when Tim Schaller got the Bruins on the board in the opening frame. Although the Panthers were positioned well in their own zone, David Krejci was allowed to stick-handle freely behind the net and set up Schaller who beat Aaron Ekblad to the slot as they both curled off the wall.

Jaromir Jagr scored for the 2nd time in the last 4 games when Ekblad fed him in the slot from the bottom of the left face-off circle, giving him 5 markers on the season and tying the game at 1 in the 2nd period.

The Bruins took the lead again late in the 2nd when David Pastrnak took advantage of the Panthers’ poor defensive awareness in the low slot to send a pass from Marchand below the goal line to the back of the net.

In the 3rd period, Aleksander Barkov scored his 2nd goal in 3 games after Reilly Smith helped to force a turnover and get the puck to the 21-year old who ripped a wrist shot pass Tuukka Rask from the high slot. David Backes gave the Bruins the 3-2 lead minutes later by deflecting Ryan Spooner’s wrist shot past Roberto Luongo, who was playing in his 944th career NHL game, a number good enough for 5th all-time.

The Panthers tied the game for the final time with less than 2 minute left in the 3rd period when a Mike Matheson point shot careened off the boards behind the net, crossing up Rask and allowing Jason Demers just enough time to swoop down to the side of the net and put the puck into the 5-hole.

In overtime, the Panthers were hardly able to get control of the puck and fought through a moment where Barkov was without a stick, giving the Bruins a brief advantage. It wasn’t long after that when the Bruins converted on a seemingly set play with Pastrnak coming down the wing and towards the net with speed, making a move around Matheson, and putting the puck top-shelf on Luongo, who ended the game with 32 saves on 36 shots.

The loss is the first in overtime this season for the Panthers who were 5-0 in the extra session entering tonight.

It was yet another patchy game for the Panthers who could just never seem to find a groove offensively or defensively. They didn’t allow many odd-man rushes compared to past games, but there just wasn’t enough strength, physicality, in and and around the blue paint, which is where all of the Boston goals came from tonight. The Bruins had the Panthers pinned in their own zone on several occasions while the opposite hardly happened until the 3rd period.

Tonight was just the 8th time all season where the Panthers scored 3 or more goals in regulation and the first since November 19th. The power play also struggled once again with no goals on 3 opportunities.

Stringing together quality shift after quality shift was something they weren’t able to do tonight, although Colton Sceviour and Vincent Trocheck had incredibly solid games individually. Both were active in all 3 zones, including Sceviour whose forechecking led to several chances and the Barkov goal.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Keith Yandle exited the game in the 1st period and did not return after sustaining a lower-body injury. The team is already without Jonathan Marchessault, who was injured on Saturday against the Senators, as well as Alex Petrovic and Jonathan Huberdeau. Head coach Tom Rowe said after the game that Yandle is likely to be out for “a while” and won’t play on Tuesday when the Panthers face the Flyers in the second game of the back-to-back.

Paul Thompson made his Panthers debut with Marchessault out with an injury, and he skated on the 4th line with Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie. The entire top-9 was tweaked as well with Malgin on the 1st line with Barkov and Jagr, Trocheck with Sceviour and Jokinen, and Bjugstad with Rau and Smith. Those lines changed again after the 1st period, and it seems the Panthers may have settled on Smith as Barkov’s winger for the time being.

That being said, Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Panthers’ lineup for just the 2nd time since being acquired for Steven Kampfer in early-November. He suited up for the first time on November 17th against the Leafs and played over 17 minutes while committing a turnover that led to a Toronto goal.

The Panthers last faced the Flyers on November 22nd in a 3-1 loss where Reilly Smith scored the lone Panthers goal. Philadelphia last played on Sunday when they defeated the Predators 4-2 with a 2-goal performance by Wayne Simmonds.

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