Panthers fall 2-1 to Senators in key divisional matchup

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

The Panthers fell to the division-rival Ottawa Senators on Sunday night by a score of 2-1, extending their losing streak to 3 games since returning home following a perfect 5-game road trip. 

In what was being labeled a must-win, playoff-type game, the Panthers just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net while their opposition converted on two defensive lapses. It’s been the same story as the last couple of games for the Panthers who peppered Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson with 38 shots, 37 of which stayed out.

Jonathan Marchessault tied the game at 1 in the 1st period with a power play goal on a perfect passing play initiated by Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, but that was after Zack Smith scored shorthanded nearly 11 minutes earlier.

Four Panthers were puck-focused as a battle ensued along the half wall, and that allowed the Senators to break free out of the zone when the play loosened up.

Kyle Turris scored the eventual game-winner at the half-way point of the 2nd period on a seemingly harmless play following the conclusion of a Florida penalty, as he skated in as part of a 3-on-2 rush and went top-shelf, short-side on James Reimer, who made 31 saves in what was a solid outing.

“There was a lot of intensity,” said Alex Petrovic of the playoff-like atmosphere. “It’s going to be like that the rest of the season. Tonight, the puck just didn’t go in the net for us. I thought we played really hard. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we are.”

The Panthers’ effort cannot be faulted as there were 3 different fights – two involving Shawn Thornton and another involving Reilly Smith – several posts hit, and other glorious chances like Smith’s wide open net, but effort wasn’t what won the game, and it won’t win every game down the stretch.

“You can’t complain about the effort, the effort was unbelievable,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “We had 74 attempted shots. When you do that, that’s what you ask the guys to do. They gave everything they could; everybody stood up for each other, which I thought was great. We just were unlucky. We play like that, we’ll win a lot more.”

This was an important game for the Panthers with the Senators being just 4 points ahead of them entering the night for the 2nd spot in the Atlantic Division, and it didn’t help that the power play went 1-for-5 with the lone goal giving them at least one on the man-advantage in 6 of their last 7 games.

The loss makes it 4 straight at home for the Panthers dating back to their 6-3 outing on February 9th against the Los Angeles Kings. They currently sit 3 points back of Toronto for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and 4 points back of the Bruins for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic Division.

Denis Malgin was recalled from the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds on Sunday after posting 12 points in 15 games since making his debut on January 20th. Malgin started the season with the Panthers in place of an injured Nick Bjugstad and went on to record 4 goals and 4 assists in 39 games with the big club before being scratched repeatedly and eventually sent down.

In the AHL, Malgin played primarily with the likes of Dryden Hunt, Chase Balisy, and Paul Thompson on the Thunderbirds’ top line, as well as on the first power play unit, and saw some successful minutes with fellow rookie forward Jayce Hawryluk before that combo was oddly broken up.

Malgin was with the Panthers on Sunday but didn’t play, although he could draw into the lineup for Tuesday’s meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes. Greg McKegg was placed on waivers but is expected to remain with the team for the time being as the trade deadline approaches.

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