Twenty-four hours after dropping their third straight game, the Panthers pulled together to hand the Washington Capitals a loss in convincing fashion.
“We’re not going to let it get out of control,” said Keith Yandle on Friday of the team’s poor play as of late.
And they certainly didn’t on Saturday.
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead when Connor Brickley got inside positioning on a Washington defender and put home a pass from a forechecking Jared McCann.
Brickley’s marker, his second of the season in his first game back after sitting out as a healthy scratch the night before, came just 1:26 into the 1st period and would be the Panthers’ only shot on goal for the next 14 minutes of play.
In that time, the Capitals fired off 13 shots, all of which were stopped by James Reimer, who started in place of Roberto Luongo.
Luongo was placed on the injured reserve earlier in the day after suffering an apparent right hand injury during the 3rd period of Friday’s loss to the Penguins when his block became wedged between the post and Conor Sheary’s body.
Reimer, with tweaked defensive pairings playing in front of him, kept the Panthers in the game, but wasn’t forced to stop very many high quality chances.
Washington’s scoring threats – most notably Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov – were all held off the score sheet.
“We’ve been analyzing why we’ve been losing lately and it’s [that we haven’t] been playing the right way for 60 minutes,” said head coach Bob Boughner. “Tonight I thought there was a lot of guys on board, we had everybody going in with the right mindset to win a road game, and we won the special teams battle.”
“I thought our forecheck [tonight] was the best of the year.”
Alex Petrovic was a healthy scratch and Ian McCoshen slid in on the bottom pairing with fellow rookie MacKenzie Weegar.
The two formed a formidable duo for the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, last season, logging big minutes in all situations and earning themselves NHL call-ups.
Two more goals for the Panthers, one at the tail end of the 1st period and another before the halfway point of the 2nd, extended their lead to three.
Evgenii Dadonov’s second of the season was a perfect shot from the slot on the power play with thirty seconds remaining in the opening frame, and Vincent Trocheck one-timed a puck top-shelf for another power play goal – this time of the 5-on-3 variety – to make it 3-0.
The Capitals countered almost 7 minutes later with a goal by defenseman Christian Djoos for the only blemish on Reimer’s 41-save outing.
It was a very different scene for the Panthers as they managed to not only score on the man-advantage but also prevent Washington from capitalizing on any of their four opportunities.
Florida entered the night with the worst power play in the league at 68.0% and left it tied for the third-worst at 72.4%.
“Our special teams stepped up tonight,” said Trocheck. “Power play needed to bounce back, we got two tonight. Penalty kill was great as well.”
Dadonov and Trocheck each finished with a goal and an assist on the night, as did Aleksander Barkov who tallied an assist and ice the game with a back-handed, short-handed, unassisted empty net goal with a minute and 16 seconds remaining in the 3rd period.
The 22-year old center was a workhorse for the Panthers, logging 26:18 of ice time, the second-highest on the team behind Aaron Ekblad at 27:20.
Part of Barkov’s heavy workload can be attributed to the losses of forwards Colton Sceviour and Jared McCann.
Sceviour had four shifts in the 1st period and just two more in the 2nd before leaving the game with an upper-body injury. He took a high hit from Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist last Saturday and went on to miss Tuesday’s game against the Flyers before returning on Friday.
McCann had nine shifts in the 1st period and five in the 2nd period before suffering a lower-body injury.
Boughner said both players are day-to-day.
- Denis Malgin was scratched for the seventh consecutive game and Owen Tippett sat out after playing in two straight games.
- Alex Petrovic was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
- Connor Brickley logged a career-high 13:50 of ice time.
- Mike Matheson took a point shot to the face in the 2nd period but returned to the game after receiving stitches in the locker room.