Florida Panthers: Wheels Come off the Bus as Cats Continue to Tumble

ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 13: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his 3rd period goal during a game with the Florida Panthers at Xcel Energy Center on December 13, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 13: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his 3rd period goal during a game with the Florida Panthers at Xcel Energy Center on December 13, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Two teams coming off very different results clashed at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center, with the Florida Panthers looking to rebound off a heartbreaking road loss against Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild.

The game got off to a very good start for the Florida Panthers. The team controlled possession, made some nice passes, and scored the first goal of the night.

Denis Malgin patched in his second of the season, following a rebound following a MacKenzie Weegar shot that wasn’t properly dealt with by Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.

This was Malgin’s first goal since October 19th, in just his third game back from his most recent injury.

The Panthers dealt with some big adversity next, as the Wild began to prey on defensive zone giveaways, dominating the puck possession for the next three and a half minutes.

James Reimer, who’s historically solid against Minnesota, made some big saves to keep the Panthers in it, denying Zach Parise with a stellar stretch save, and Eric Fehr off a giveaway by Mark Pysyk.

There weren’t a whole ton of positives after the first goal, but it would be harsh not to give Anthony Greco a mention after playing his first NHL game.

The 25-year-old looked sharp early on, creating a few half-decent chances with his speed, but didn’t do too much after the second period. He showed signs of encouragement tonight though, give it a couple of games, maybe he’ll start producing consistently.

Back to the action, the game completely switched gears for the Panthers after that, the Wild were held for 9:44 without a shot on goal.

Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar were solid at the back, denying any possession for Minnesota for a solid period of time.

The Cats were outshooting the Wild by as much as 13-3 in shots on goal, but the Wild absorbed the pressure to respond.

A finish off the crossbar and in from Nino Niederreiter left Reimer flat-footed, and out of absolutely nothing, Minnesota were level. That’s how it ended after one, the Panthers left the ice mildly discouraged, but plenty of time to turn the game around.

The second period again got off to a very promising start, as Florida outshot the Wild by as much as 11-2, but it was Minnesota that hunkered down and broke the tie.

Ryan Suter smashed a shot from the left flank, deflected in by the stick of Niederreiter through James Reimer to give the Wild their first lead of the game.

For Niederreiter, who’s been red-hot as of late, this was his first multi-goal game since January 4th, a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

The Wild kept the momentum to bag another goal before the end of the second. It had been a rough game for Mark Pysyk so far, and it got even worse as Mikael Granlund’s pass snuck through the Panthers’ #13 straight to Eric Staal, with one of the easiest goals he’ll score this season to double Minnesota’s advantage.

It was just another period that felt that the Panthers were hard done by, as they showed signs of getting a goal to retake the lead, but the turning point was the penalty against Mikael Granlund.

The Panthers had the only power play through the first forty minutes, but all three shots on goal during that span were saved by Dubnyk.

After that, the Panthers just looked tired, the Wild continued to get seemingly every 50-50 puck and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

The third period ended for the Panthers as fast as it had started, as Zach Parise’s shot was stabbed wide by the stick of Reimer, but a deflection off the boards caused the puck to squirm right under Reimer’s body before guiding it into his own net.

Parise’s goal looked like a dagger for Florida, down 4-1 with no momentum, giving up a laughable goal 1:02 into the third.

If it wasn’t made sure already, the Wild got a fifth not long after. Jonas Brodin picked out his fourth of the season with a slapshot from the point, as James Reimer’s vision impaired on the play by Wild forward Charlie Coyle.

There wasn’t a lot to offer from the Panthers in the 3rd, Dryden Hunt had the best opportunity off a giveaway from 37-year-old Matt Hendricks, but Dubnyk was equal to it.

Simply put, the Panthers were locked down tonight, on both ends. While the stats failed to show it, the Panthers were absolutely inferior to the Wild on all aspects.

It was a very quiet night for a lot of the top six, especially Evgeni Dadonov. Dadonov, who played on both line two and line one last night, just seemed to have nothing going against Matt Dumba, hardly touching the puck after the first period.

Aleksander Barkov really failed to make much of an impact in front, which was annoying considering how slippery Dubnyk looked during the first half of the game.

The Panthers had chance after chance after chance just like this in the early stages of the game. Devan Dubnyk was an early talking point in this game, struggling early this season, his confidence looked completely shot for a majority of the opening two periods.

Other than Malgin, the Panthers really failed to capitalize off any rebound chances that the team is usually better with.

Defensively, the Cats were an absolute tire fire after the Wild equalized. The Wild spread the Panthers out too much in the defensive zone, so elementary it looked as though the Wild were on the power play for stretches of time.

More from The Rat Trick

As mentioned before, terrible night from Mark Pysyk. Not only did he give away the puck at very crucial times, but he was on the ice for four of the five Minnesota goals.

Ever since Pysyk has returned to playing with Mike Matheson, he’s returned to early season Pysyk, a total liability.

It’ll be hard to imagine if Bogdan Kiselevich doesn’t return to the lineup next game after being scratched again tonight, whether he’ll replace Petrovic or Pysyk would seemingly be the question.

Speaking of liabilities, James Reimer is usually susceptible to a lot of blame when the Panthers concede, and it’s hard not to see why.

Last night, he was the least of the issues. Yes, Reimer gave up five goals. Yes, he barely moved on the first goal, and yes, he did kick the puck into his own net, but he came up with a few decent saves in this one.

Also, yes, this tweet did not age well.

The Panthers have avoided making any major changes for the last couple of weeks, but with the Greco call-up, it shows that a lot of AHL talent can break through at this level.

For me, I think we might need to see one more new face in the lineup Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Forward-wise, I think Dryden Hunt should definitely be on his last leg, if not sent back down after last night.

Not that last night was specifically terrible, but he’s brought no end product. 12 games, 1 assist, this can’t be our standard going forward.

Whether it’s just Micheal Haley (who should be among the last looked) returning to the lineup, or possibly another call-up, there needs to be a change.

Defensively, absolutely have to make at least one change, if not two. Kiselevich has to be the fourth name on the defense on Saturday (after Ekblad, Yandle, Matheson) for me.

Consider taking Petrovic and Pysyk both out of the lineup, maybe call up Jacob MacDonald at this point. The Panthers don’t have a lot left to lose.

dark. Next. Inaction from the Cats is Bordering on Neglect

Roberto Luongo will likely return in goal for Saturday night. For the Panthers, our days are numbered, and dropping games like this is not playoff standard.