Four-game road-trip ends as Panthers fall to bottom-feeding Coyotes

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

Monday night’s game was a home-coming for former Coyote Keith Yandle, but that was about all it was as the Panthers were unable to solve the league’s second-worst team. 

A 3-2 loss to Arizona doesn’t come as much of a surprise to many as the Panthers have struggled to get really anything going, especially on the now complete 4-game road-trip during which they went 0-2-2.

A slow start to the 1st and 2nd periods gave the Coyotes the confidence they needed to stay in the game and bring it to overtime despite late pressure and big saves by Roberto Luongo, who finished with 39 stops on 42 shots.

The Panthers were on the negative side of just about every category as they lead in giveaways (15), allowed more shots, were owned in the face-off circle by losing 61 percent of the draws, doubled in hits, and out-shot-blocked while not converting on any of their 3 power play chances, one of which came at a key moment late in the 3rd.

Vincent Trocheck was, once again, the one to give the Panthers some life by scoring the game’s first goal and his team-leading 18th of the season. After Arizona scored twice in 12 seconds just 2:03 into the middle frame, a Colton Sceviour floater from the point rebounded to Michael Sgarbossa who put the puck into the net for his 2nd career goal in the NHL.

Boca Raton, Florida native Jakob Chychrun recorded the primary assist on both Coyotes goals, one which came from Christian Fischer and the other from Ryan White.

With the Panthers’ coaches preaching bodies and pucks to the net on a practice day on Sunday, it worked, but they also had several other chances to take control of the game and it just didn’t happen. Failed attempts to clear the defensive zone and an inability to get through the neutral zone consistently proved to be fatal.

A lapse in awareness allowed Tobias Rieder to wind up for a one-timer from the high slot in overtime and get the puck past a screened Luongo for the game-winner.

Another game where the Panthers didn’t look as good as a team should when they’re playing a lesser opponent. Another game where a valuable point goes by the wayside. They’ve scored 2 goals or fewer in 7 of their last 10 games, and it’s nothing new.

Aleksander Barkov has been out for nearly a month now, Nick Bjugstad has missed significant time and wasn’t producing when he was healthy, and top-line winger Jonathan Huberdeau has yet to suit up for a game after a pre-season injury.

Add in the facts that those players aren’t easy to replace, trades can’t be made at the snap of a finger, and healthy players have struggled to produce, and you get a team that has been forced to rely on a handful of players that aren’t supposed to be NHL regulars.

On Wednesday, the Panthers will finally return home to play the Tampa Bay Lightning who have also had their share of struggles this season. They’ve lost 7 of their last 9 games includes their meeting on Saturday with the Coyotes and will face their cross-state rivals for the 3rd time this year. The two teams have split the first 2 games of the season series with the most recent game being a 3-1 victory for the Panthers at home on November 7th.

Post-game notes: D Keith Yandle played in his 600th consecutive game in the NHL, and it came against the team that drafted him in the 4th round of the 2005 Draft. … F Vincent Trocheck has 10 goals, 7 assists, and 17 points in his last 14 games. … F Michael Sgarbossa has a goal in 2 of his last 3 games. … F Lawson Crouse, who the Panthers drafted 11th overall at the 2015 NHL Draft and traded to Arizona during the off-season, registered 2 shots on goal and a -1-rating in 11:12 of ice time.

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