The Florida Panthers returned from their bye week looking to jump-start a mediocre season so far. Were they able to do it against the Vegas Golden Knights?
The Florida Panthers dropped their last game before they entered their bye week to the Calgary Flames by a score of 4-2. They were looking to get back on the winning side of things against the incredibly tough Vegas Golden Knights.
While the Panthers entered the game one under .500, the Golden Knights entered 19 games over .500, and lead the entire Western Conference by 3 points. Malcolm Subban got the start for Vegas, and James Reimer for Florida.
The Panthers got off to a fast start as it seemed as if the seven-day break had no effect on their ability to get back to playing hockey. After a pretty even start for both teams, the Panthers struck first as
knocked in a loose puck to beat Malcolm Subban, and gave the Panthers the lead (1-0):
After the goal, both teams continued to exchange good scoring chances, but nobody was able to find the back of the net. The Panthers continued to keep up their high pace and energy as the period moved along.
Eleven minutes after McGinn scored for the Panthers, the Knights struck right back as David Perron roofed a shot into the back of the net, tying the game at one apiece. The goal came off of a deconstructed odd man rush as Perron found himself all alone in the corner of the offensive zone to tie it up:
Right after the Panthers allowed the goal, they took a penalty to put the Golden Knights on the power play. But, instead of the Knights taking the lead, the Panthers struck shorthanded as Aleksander Barkov stuffed in a puck off of a 2 on 1 with Vincent Trocheck to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead late in the first period. The Cats would end the period up 2-1 over Vegas:
Florida continued to play at a fast rate in the second period as they continued to pressure the Vegas defense and put shots on goal. Even though the Panthers were pushing the pace and playing well, Vegas were also playing just as well.
Just a little less than seven minutes into the period, and Vegas tied it back up as William Karlsson deposited his 25th goal of the season:
Both teams continued their quick pace as they traded good scoring chances back and forth. Jared McCann found himself on a breakaway, but was robbed by Malcolm Subban to keep the game even at two.
As the period continued on, the Panthers and the Knights generated more opportunities to take the lead, but they were all either wasted away, or the goalies came up with big saves. As the period gradually moved along, the action calmed down a bit as there were not as many scoring chances as there were earlier on in the game. Florida would end the period tied at two with Vegas heading into a very important third period.
The third period got off to a fast start for the Cats as they continued to search for the game leading goal. Off an odd man rush, the Panthers found that leading goal, as Evgeni Dadonov put away a rebound into the back of the net to give the Panthers the all important third period lead:
Things got a little bit more feisty as the third period moved along, and both teams continued to play at an extremely high level. It was obvious that the Panthers had a lot of energy stored up from the bye week.
It seemed as if the Cats were going to hang on to the lead and win the game, but James Neal placed a beautiful shot (top-shelf) to tie things up at three. Things would stay pretty even as the Panthers and Golden Knights headed to overtime:
Vegas was 8-3 and the Panthers were 3-6 in overtime so far throughout the year. After Vegas had their own opportunity to win it early in overtime, it was Aaron Ekblad who would put the game away with 40 seconds into O.T:
Florida needed this win tonight. No doubt about it. With more than half the season over, there is no more, “always next game” or “at least we got a point.” The hole the Panthers have dug themselves into is still big, but this win could and hopefully will propel the Cats to greater things.
The Panthers also deserved to win this game tonight. They dug deep and beat a very good team in the Golden Knights. They will have to keep this effort up if they want to continue climbing the standings.
As far as the playoff race goes, the Panthers sit nine points out of the final wild card spot. While it sounds like a lot, the Panthers do have four games in hand.
People may continue to say that they are out of it, but with a bunch of games left in the season, the Cats still have a slim shot at possibly bringing Panthers playoff hockey back to South Florida. This was the win that Florida needed tonight, and they got it.
Your Florida Panthers will go for their second straight as they head to Nashville to take on the Predators tomorrow night @ 8PM.