The Panthers blew a 3-1 lead to the Red Wings who went on to take the full 2 points in a shootout on Friday night.
It seemed like a night full of losses for the Panthers. Not only did they lose the game, but they lost Reilly Smith to a concussion, 2 video reviews, and a 3rd-period lead to the division-rival Red Wings.
Smith opened the scoring late in the 1st period on the power play but left 2:51 into the 2nd after a big hit inside the defensive zone blue-line. Jason Demers and Derek MacKenzie added two more goals to make it 3-1 after Anthony Mantha struck early in the middle frame.
Demers went bar down with a point shot while MacKenzie one-timed a perfect back-door feed past goaltender Jared Coreau. Smith’s 7th of the year was a wrist shot from the slot with Vincent Trocheck causing havoc at the top of the crease.
The Panthers nearly – and probably should’ve – had a 4-1 lead when Keith Yandle’s point shot whizzed right by Coreau with Nick Bjugstad screening him perfectly in front, but a coaches challenge called the goal back after apparently determining that Bjugstad “prevented Coreau from doing his job in his crease.”
“I’m not going there,” said head coach Tom Rowe of the Yandle goal. “I thought [it] was a fair goal. They gave us the ruling, saying the goalie needs that room to move to try and make the save, and they ruled that he didn’t.”
“It’s disappointing, especially when you see it,” said Yandle, who celebrated emphatically before the decision to overturn the goal was handed down. “There’s plays where the goalie is interfered with, but [Nick Bjugstad] did a great job of not touching the goalie. I’m just baffled by how it’s not a goal.”
In the 3rd, goals from Drew Miller and Frans Nielsen tied things up at 3 with the Panthers hanging by a thread for most of the period before the game was sent to overtime and eventually a shootout.
Vincent Trocheck was thought by everyone on the ice and the benches to have scored on the Panthers’ first attempt, and the Red Wings almost sent their next shooter out until a scoreboard replay showed that the puck never crossed the goal line. The Detroit bench exploded and the referees immediately went to review and overturn the call on the ice.
After Aleksander Barkov scored, Nielsen scored for Detroit, although the replay appeared to show him interfering with the pads of Roberto Luongo prior to the puck crossing the goal line. A long video review did not go the Panthers’ way – once again – and the Red Wings walked away with 2 points after Bjugstad’s attempt was stopped by Coreau’s right pad.
Coreau finished with 31 saves on 34 shots for his 1st NHL win in his 2nd career start while Luongo stopped 36 of 39 shots and has been temporarily halted while in pursuit of his 448th career win.
The Panthers continued their solid penalty killing performance by going a perfect 5-for-5 and extending their run to 47 of their last 52 penalties killed off. However, the power play went 1-for-6 against a middle-of-the-pack Detroit penalty kill, and that didn’t help the Panthers’ cause.
The Panthers have won just 3 of their last 11 games and are now 10-0-4 when scoring at least 3 goals in regulation. They had also won each of the 3 previous games in the season series and were looking to sweep it for the first time.
“We’ve got to protect the lead,” said Trocheck. “We had a two-goal lead and then we started to sit back and kind of prevent them from scoring instead of playing our game. That’s when you get in trouble, playing in the D-zone a little bit too much.”
After a brief holiday break, the Panthers will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday at home for the 3rd matchup of the season series. The Leafs won the last 2 meetings in Toronto and defeated the Coyotes 4-1 on Friday.