Taking part in this year’s Kraft Hockeyville game, the Florida Panthers had one thing in mind and that was to win.
The game got off to a slow start between both sides, with chances traded at both ends of the rink. The Panthers, who were playing under new head coach Joel Quenneville, were expected to take this game in comfortable fashion.
However, with a little surprise, it was the Canadiens who struck first. Breaking down the ice ever so smoothly, Alex Belzile and Otto Leskinen created a beautiful tic-tac-toe play for Matthew Peca to bury on an empty cage (1-0 Habs).
Minutes later, though, the Panthers equalized right after their man advantage had expired. While falling to the ice, Jonathan Huberdeau sent a no-look back pass to Evgenii Dadonov, who slotted a shot past a sprawling Charlie Lindgren.
Turning to the second, the Panthers upped their tempo, but couldn’t create any clear-cut chances in front of goal. Instead, it was the Canadiens who struck gold on their next chance, with Jeff Petry throwing a shot from the point which found its way through a screen and in past Driedger.
The Panthers, much like the first, equalized moments later – but this time on the man advantage. Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov both played catch at the top of the paint, with the latter setting up Hoffman alongside the half wall.
In his notorious spot, Hoffman released a rocket past Lindgren, evening the game at two goals apiece. The Panthers continued to push throughout the course of the second frame but didn’t make much of the limited chances that were presented.
In the third, though, the game opened up. For the first time of the night, the Panthers took the lead off Jonathan Huberdeau’s laser beam – which came off a beautiful feed from Evgenii Dadonov.
Like most of the game, this outing was played to the tune of a teeter-totter. Riley Barber got his side back on level terms off poor defensive coverage coming from the Cats. Florida allowed the 25-year-old to walk right in and place his shot.
To make matters worse, the Panthers conceded two minutes later off another defensive mistake. In their own zone, the Habs managed to get the puck by Mike Hoffman and Mike Matheson at the same time, creating a quick odd-man rush the other way.
The game concluded shortly after, with the Canadiens taking the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville game by a score of 4-3.
The Panthers remain winless in all three preseason matches, with five remaining in their schedule. It’s key to remember that it’s only exhibition, which counts for absolutely nothing, but given the players that Florida had at their disposal, you’d expect a little more…
There’s still some time remaining to fix those blaring kinks, but if anything really stood out, it’s that the blue line still needs work.
The Panthers are back in action on Thursday, Sept. 19 against the Montreal Canadiens @ 7 P.M. The two will square-off at the Bell Centre in Montreal.