Florida Panthers Lose in Ugliest Fashion Against the Hawks

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Alexandre Fortin #84 of the Chicago Blackhawks goes airborne and scores against Goaltender James Reimer #34 and Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers in the third period at the BB&T Center on November 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Alexandre Fortin #84 of the Chicago Blackhawks goes airborne and scores against Goaltender James Reimer #34 and Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers in the third period at the BB&T Center on November 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Everything was going well for the Florida Panthers until they blew their lead (once again) late in the third period.

As usual, the Florida Panthers got off to a great start to open the game. It seems like a common theme for this team as they really do well coming out of the gates.

In the opening five minutes on the man advantage, Birthday boy Mike Hoffman opened the scoring with his eleventh of the season.

Florida wasn’t done there as they continuously applied pressure. The Hawks, on the other hand, were struggling to match the Panthers’ intensity, pinned in their own end for a good chunk of time.

It was only a matter of time until the Panthers found a second, all thanks to Jared McCann. The link-up between Colton Sceviour (who created the goal) and Jared McCann was nothing short of marvelous.

The Cats controlled the rest of the first and ended the opening twenty minutes in full force with a two-goal lead.

The second frame, however, offered some surprises. 49 seconds into the second and David Kampf found life for the visiting side. He effortlessly skated by Matheson and around Ekblad to get in on goal against Reimer.

Shortly after and the Panthers conceded a second. It wasn’t a surprise considering the Hawks regained momentum and caught the Panthers sleeping. Patrick Kane tipped a shot home to level the game at two.

But something we haven’t seen from the Cats this year is their willingness to fight right back. Three minutes after Kane’s goal and Ekblad tallied his fourth of the season off a feed from Hoffman.

The Panthers got the ball rolling again and added a fourth. Frank Vatrano impressively redirected an air pass from Jonathan Huberdeau. Like that, and the Cats regained their two-goal lead that they previously blew.

Like the first, the home side (FLA) headed into the locker room with a two-goal lead, but the third period wasn’t going to be a cakewalk for the leading side which they later found out to be true.

In case you’ve made it this far into this piece, this is the part where the Panthers *truly* collapsed. On the man advantage through the halfway mark in the third and the Cats conceded a shorthanded goal.

Nick Bjugstad was carrying the puck out of his zone and was abruptly stripped by Alexandre Fortin. Fortin then quickly rushed down on goal and found the back of the net (off his foot) ever so slightly.

From there, the Hawks’ play started to pick up while the Panthers’ suddenly dropped. FLA’s defense was struggling to get pucks out of the zone, while Kane’s line was pressing heavily.

Chicago was pouring and throwing everything at the net with hopes of receiving a lucky bounce. And receiving a lucky bounce is what the visitors got.

With under a second left in play, Alex DeBrincat tied the game. Yes, you that heard right, Alex DeBrincat wacked at a puck in front of goal, which managed to glide through Reimer’s five-hole.

A split second is all it took for the Hawks to force O.T., where they would later find the game’s winning goal.

Yes, I spoiled it for you all… I really had too. Off the faceoff, Erik Gustafsson was given all sorts of room to walk in and fire a shot. Do I even need to repeat myself? Gustafsson won it in overtime for the Hawks.

For the Panthers, on the other hand, this was another shameful performance by the team all around. Another performance where this group played for a selective amount of time while letting the opposition back into the game.

Defensively (which has been an issue all year) was up and down throughout the match. At times, the Panthers’ D core was looking pretty solid, while at other moments, they were looking like their shaky selves.

Offensively, I can’t really say much, as the Cats put four behind Ward. Four goals are more than enough to win you a hockey game… that is, if you can defend.

Goaltending from Reims wasn’t at its worst, but again, it wasn’t near the level the Panthers needed it to be. Unless the name’s Luongo, all the other netminders have either been subpar at best or horrendous at worst.

But while this loss was purely unacceptable by the players themselves, you have to turn to the man in charge on the bench: Bob Boughner.

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There comes a point where you have to look straight at your head coach and ask, “what are you doing?” Like seriously, how many more games like these until the team starts to wake up? How many more times does this group need to shoot themselves in the foot until the message is finally understood?

When the Panthers started to lose momentum throughout much of the third, why was there no change in strategy made by the coach himself?

After all, the visiting team called a timeout in the dying seconds of the game to set up one final play. I wonder, what was Boughner instructing his guys to do? Where was Capuano instructing his defense to be?

As easy as it is to blame James Reimer for that soft goal, a chance like that should never be allowed in the final seconds of a game. Especially to a player like Alex DeBrincat, who’s known for putting the puck in the net.

Realistically, I could go on forever and we could break down the team’s issues until the cows come home. But as I’ve said before, change is needed and it ain’t going to be in the weather…

While still early, the Panthers are walking on terribly thin ice and are playing with even terribly dangerous fire. Their season looks almost all but done if they continue another week down this road.

The excuse of “there’s still lots of hockey to be played” only lasts so long, and even this organization realizes that deep down. It’s seriously up to management and the team itself to make the changes needed to get back into the hunt.

Next. Five-Step Plan to Getting the Cats Back on Track. dark

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