The Panthers took down the Anaheim Ducks in what was easily one of their best all-around performances of the season, giving them wins in 3 straight games, 6 of their last 7, and improving their record to 3-0-0 on their 5-game road-trip.
Was it one of the Panthers’ best games so far this season?
After back-to-back games of allowing at least 4 goals, head coach Tom Rowe emphasized playing better defensively prior to Friday’s game and they certainly executed that plan to a tee.
“Obviously, it’s not going to change over night,” said captain Derek MacKenzie. “We certainly talked about it. More importantly, we know how much [Roberto Luongo and James Reimer] mean to this team. It’s not right they get peppered with that many shots on a lot of nights. The guys want to play for those guys, especially, that was a big part of it tonight.”
Four different players combined to lift the Panthers to a 4-1 victory, and it all happened after the Ducks opened the scoring with a short-handed goal in the 2nd period.
Colton Sceviour, who had a wail of a game recording a total of 7 shots, scored less than 2 minutes later 4:18 into the middle frame. That was followed up by a goal each from Jaromir Jagr and Aaron Ekblad on the power play, which went 1-for-3 on the night.
“As a line we felt pretty good; we got on pucks, created turnovers and scored,” said Sceviour. “We created a lot of chances. Whether we get down or up we’re staying confident in ourselves for the entire game.”
Sceviour unleashed a wrist shot from the high slot while using an Anaheim defender as a screen, while Jagr stole the puck behind the net and undressed goaltender John Gibson with some silky smooth stick-handling at the top of the blue paint.
Ekblad’s goal was a point-blank slap shot from inside the blue-line after Jussi Jokinen smartly let the puck go through him, fooling the opposing players.
Derek MacKenzie scored a rare short-handed empty-netter to seal the deal late in the 3rd. James Reimer made 35 saves on 36 shots to earn his 4th win in his last 5 appearances.
After an evenly-matched 1st period, the Panthers controlled most of the play, especially in the 2nd period. A well-timed timeout called by Tom Rowe with roughly 10 minutes remaining in the 3rd period really settled the Panthers down and allowed them to shut down the Ducks the rest of the way.
The Panthers have scored 17 goals over their last 3 games, and a total of 22 in the 5 games since Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov returned from injury on February 3rd. Both went without a point against Anaheim ending their streaks at 4 games but were able to neutralize Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, who also came up empty.
Florida also improved to a record of 18-1-5 when scoring at least 3 goals in regulation.
Greg McKegg returned to the lineup in place of Michael Sgarbossa, who Rowe said is dealing with a minor injury. McKegg slotted in on the 3rd line, played a couple of ticks over 11 minutes, and won all 4 face-offs he took, which is impressive considering the Panthers were an abysmal 28 percent on the night.
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Panthers as they’ll face the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in the second game of a back-to-back set. They’ll look to avenge their 6-3 loss to the Kings at home last Thursday which came in their first game after a 5-day bye-week.
The Kings have lost 3 of their last 4 games, including their most recent one on Thursday, a 5-3 result at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes after returning from a bye-week of their own.