Well, the Panthers got what they wanted. Sort of.
After scoring just 4 goals on their previous 55 power play opportunities entering Thursday night’s game against the Jets, the Panthers connected on all 3 chances with the man-advantage for the first time since last October against the Avalanche.
They were down 1-0 after a very late 1st period goal by Dustin Byfuglien, but the Panthers got 2 straight goals from Aleksander Barkov and Reilly Smith on the power play to take a 2-1 lead. Then, after the Jets got 1 goal back, Vincent Trocheck made it 3-2 with the team’s 3rd power play marker of the game.
“I think it was just moving [the puck] a little quicker, keeping it simple, getting more shots on net,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “Once you get the penalty killers out of position, your plays will open up, but I think they kept it simple and did a real good job moving [the puck] around.”
The Jets scored a goal in each period, including the 3rd when they tied the game at 3 and eventually forced an overtime, albeit with the Panthers spending most of the 20 minutes in their own zone defending.
After the overtime period, the game went to a shootout where Vincent Trocheck scored before Roberto Luongo allowed a goal by Bryan Little to continue the shootout. Matthieu Perreault scored in the 6th round to end the contest to overcome the Panthers’ tying their season high of 44 shots on goal, 19 of which came in the opening frame.
For the Panthers though, their slide has continued with yet another loss under Rowe, giving them a record of 2-3-4 in 9 games since the coaching change on November 28th. They’ve now lost 8 of their last 9 and only have 1 regulation win since November 19th.
The consistency hasn’t been there, and despite being just 4 points back the Bruins in the standings with a game in hand, it’s hardly a bright spot with the way they’ve been playing as of late. Especially in the 3rd period, the Panthers were pinned in their zone several times and it seemed like there was a bunch of confusion regarding assignments.
“Four-on-four defensive zone coverage we obviously need to work on because we lost a couple of assignments on that,” said Rowe.
The Panthers allowed 2 goals at 5-on-5, including the first which came off a poor line change, and 1 goal at 4-on-4 where Little was left all alone on the wing.
There’s no telling why the Panthers have been unable to sort out their defensive lapses through 31 games but it’s certainly troubling to see from a team that is slowly beginning to fall out of the playoff picture. It’s been all or nothing this season and the effort has been unpredictable from game to game, whereas last year, many could expect the on-ice product to be. For whatever reason, it’s completely different this season.
Against the Canucks on Saturday, all of the Panthers’ goals (not including the empty-netter) came at even-strength but they couldn’t score on the power play. On Thursday against the Jets, each of the goals was scored on the power play with nothing being done at even strength. The willingness to go to the front of the net was there tonight, but it hasn’t always been there as of late.
Perhaps it’s the high expectations after last season. Perhaps it’s all of the big contracts signed during the summer. Perhaps it’s nothing at all. But whatever it is, it needs to be addressed, because these results are not what was expected of this team through 31 games.
In terms of the lineup, Denis Malgin drew back in after sitting out as a healthy scratch for the past 2 games. He centered the 3rd line with Jokinen and Bjugstad on the wings. Colton Sceviour was on the 2nd line with Trocheck and Smith.
Jonathan Huberdeau skated on Thursday morning as he begins the road back from the Achilles’ injury he suffered on October 10th. He’s skated a few times already on this road trip, but he’s still not expected to return to game action for some time.
To finish off the 3-game road trip, the Panthers will travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche on Friday for the second game of the back-to-back. The Avalanche last played on Wednesday when they fell victim to the Flyers who won their 10th straight game. They’re in a similar boat as the Panthers having won 2 of their last 7 games, with one of those 5 losses being a 10-1 beating at the hands of the Canadiens on Saturday.
The two teams faced each other back on October 22nd when the Panthers earned the 5-2 victory on home ice.