Following an overtime victory in Dallas, the Florida Panthers were headed for Tampa Bay, starting a three-game series against their in-state rival.
Boy was that ever a fun match! Last night’s game was filled with lots of counter-attacking hockey, as well as an abundance of power plays. The Cats and Bolts put on a good show for the fans, which was expected heading into this match.
The Panthers started the game off with little energy, as Tampa Bay was pouring pressure deep in the Panthers’ zone early on. Because of James Reimer, the Panthers were still in the hockey game and held at a zero apiece scoreline.
Florida managed to escape the first ever so slightly, but their sloppy play resulted in an Adam Erne goal. Towards the halfway mark of the second, Alex Killorn wristed a shot short side past Reimer and doubled his side’s lead.
The third period, however, changed ever so radically. From the moment the puck dropped, the Cats were on their horses. Evgeni Dadonov redirected Mark Pysyk’s shot, slicing the Lightning’s lead in half.
Minutes later shorthanded, Aaron Ekblad sniped a shot top-shelf past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Suddenly, the Panthers managed to turn the game around in their favor, as Dadonov would feed Barkov for the winning goal.
The Panthers left it late and didn’t play a full 60-minute hockey game, however, you have to commend them for completing the comeback against one of the league’s best.
Who Stood Out?
I have to start with James Reimer, who stopped 27/29 shots, ultimately giving the Panthers a shot at winning the hockey game.
At times when the Lightning were dominating, it looked like the game could’ve gotten out of Florida’s reach. But with Reimer standing tall throughout the game, his presence ensured that the Cats could complete the comeback.
Next, I have to go with Russian winger Evgeni Dadonov. Dadonov was all over the ice last night, unafraid of challenging anyone who got in his way. The 29-year-old recorded a goal and an assist, capping off the night with a total of 4 SOG. This game had Dad’s name written all over it.
Third, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear your captain… Aleksander Barkov! As usual, Barkov was a standout. Displaying his tremendous two-way play and causing havoc in the Bolts’ end, Barkov was causing all sorts of problems for the Lightning last night.
His game-winning goal was a thing of beauty, showcasing his wonderful chemistry with Euro compatriot Evgeni Dadonov:
Finally, the Panthers’ penalty kill was top-notch for me. Killing off 3/4 penalties, you really couldn’t have asked of any more from FLA’s PK unit.
On top of that, Aaron Ekblad’s game-tying goal was also scored shorthanded. In short, it was a great night for the penalty kill, fighting off the league’s third-ranked power play from last year.
The biggest disappointment of the night had to be the power play. Going 0/4 on the man advantage, the Panthers’ struggles continued.
The power play has always been an area of concern for the Cats, and after watching them strike out on their four attempts, it’s something that Boughner will have to focus on in the coming days.
Keith Yandle, who had 3 giveaways on the night, just couldn’t catch a break. Apart from his notorious giveaways, Yandle was also caught in the dust a couple of times, too. A perfect instance comes when Brayden Point dances around Yandle and flies in on goal:
Lastly, while he wasn’t a major disappointment on the night, he was still disappointing by my standards.
Mike Hoffman – who the Cats acquired back in the summer – was quiet offensively. Recording a total of zero shots on net, Hoffman just wasn’t utilizing his shot nor creating scoring opportunities.
He wasn’t utilizing his shot primarily because he was overpassing, shown three-four times throughout the game.
Obviously, he’s still new to the team and will need some more time to settle and adjust. But one thing Hoffman shouldn’t be afraid to use is his shot. Because we all know what it’s capable of!
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the Panthers should feel proud of completing a comeback against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Completing such is no easy task, which makes this victory ever so sweeter.
The Cats need to fix their bad starts to games, which really puts them behind the eight ball early on. Additionally, the power play needs work, considering the unit was struggling to set up in the Lightning’s zone.
There’s still time before the season to address the aforementioned points, but it’s highly critical to continue experimenting in these next two preseason games against the Bolts.
Your Panthers are back in action on Thursday, Sept. 27 @7 P.M. against the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking place in Tampa, Florida once again.