Defensive Problems Constant as Carolina top Florida Panthers 6-3

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers battles with Teuvo Teravainen #86 of the Carolina Hurricanes for control of the puck during the first period at BB&T Center on October 08, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers battles with Teuvo Teravainen #86 of the Carolina Hurricanes for control of the puck during the first period at BB&T Center on October 08, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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It was a night to forget in South Florida for the Florida Panthers, losing 6-3 at home to Carolina.

While the scoreline may not be as terrible, considering the Carolina Hurricanes‘ final goal came on a Sebastian Aho empty-netter, the game was stale from Florida. The first period seemed to dig the team into too much of a hole to climb out of, even with Evgenii Dadonov‘s first of the season making the game interesting late on.

The Florida Panthers actually seemed to start well inside the first 6:30 of the first period. They were playing up-tempo, keeping up with Carolina’s speed, not turning the puck over, and limiting Rod Brind’Amour‘s men to just one shot on goal.

From then on, it all went downhill. Mark Pysyk, who got his first ice time of the season after supposedly being shopped by Dale Tallon, was the unlucky man at fault for the first goal.

With Florida unable to clear the zone, Carolina maintained puck possession and made the Panthers pay. Jake Gardiner‘s shot from the point re-directed twice, once off Brock McGinn‘s stick and next off the skate of Pysyk. The puck nestled perfectly for Jordan Staal, who got free of Keith Yandle‘s mark to tap home his first goal as Canes captain.

The goal came somewhat against the run of play, but there was plenty of time to correct this error and move on with the period. The Panthers did the exact opposite of that.

The second goal came on a quick rush into the zone from Carolina. With the Panthers not set defensively, MacKenzie Weegar couldn’t cover two men in the slot. That became a problem when Haydn Fleury‘s wrist shot was re-directed by Teuvo Teravainen for his first of the season, 2-0 Hurricanes.

For Sergei Bobrovsky, it was frustrating to see those first two go in, without a real shot to save either chance. The Panthers’ attempts to get it together didn’t appear until after Bob was out of the game, however.

The Hurricanes’ third goal came against the third Florida pairing of Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson. These two simply cannot be on a defensive pairing again, and tonight’s play proved it.

Dougie Hamilton‘s pass split the two defensemen, giving Andrei Svechnikov a clean breakaway, but this time, Bobrovsky had it covered, sliding to his left to keep the puck out. What followed after was incredibly infuriating.

The puck immediately corralled its way back to Svechnikov, and both Ekblad and Matheson turned to face the forward, instead of watching the slot. The man who started the move, Hamilton, walked right into the slot, unmarked, Svechnikov picked him out, and Hamilton picked out the top shelf to make it 3-0 Carolina.

It’s so annoying to see this team still have zero defensive awareness and as easy as it is to blame Ekblad and Matheson, I also want to call out Henrik Borgstrom on the play. Borgstrom was the furthest forward back, yet didn’t really give too much effort in getting back. If he showed some more hustle, he might have been able to prevent the chance.

With a little over two minutes in the period, the Canes made it four. Yet again, it was Ekblad and Matheson, and for the fourth time in the first period, a wide-open man in the net converted.

It isn’t rocket science, you can’t give teams, especially those as good as Carolina, chances in the slot. Teravainen’s pass yet again splitting Ekblad and Matheson and put home by Ryan Dzingel, but it could’ve been put home by him or Erik Haula, who was also wide open in front.

If Florida are going to pay a goalie as much as they did with Sergei Bobrovsky, they need to give him chances to save the puck. These high-quality chances in the slot are going to be put away by any team.

After the first, Joel Quenneville had seen enough, swapping Sam Montembeault in for his first minutes of the season. Montembeault performed really well in relief, a sign of confidence for Florida.

He did, however, give up a goal just 1:31 into coming in. It came after making a great save on Martin Necas, but with nobody following up Dzingel on the far side, it made for a rebound goal to make it 5-0 to Carolina. Again, no defensive awareness from Matheson, uncontested move down low, just too easy.

Florida would get the next three goals of the game, some small consolations in a relatively poor night from the forwards. The first came in a good response to that 5th Canes goal, with Mike Hoffman‘s shot not dealt with properly by Carolina netminder James Reimer, eventually put home by MacKenzie Weegar for his first of the season.

Right, forgot to mention that at the start of the recap, Carolina’s starter was James Reimer. Reimer would make 47 saves in this one to record his second consecutive road win for the Hurricanes. This is the same James Reimer that Florida traded for Scott Darling (who was immediately bought out). No, he did not play like that same James Reimer that played the last three seasons for Florida.

Was it surprising to see Reims perform this well? Yes, and no.

The other two goals came on the man advantage. The first coming on a 4-on-3 power play, with Keith Yandle‘s shot getting through Reimer’s glove side to make it 5-2. It was a nice moment for Yandle, bagging his 95th career goal (and first of the season) in his 800th consecutive NHL game.

The third was a much-needed goal for the Florida Panthers’ first line, who are still yet to record a goal at even strength. It was a very nice move, however, with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau linking up before Huberdeau’s excellent slap-pass to the shot gave Evgenii Dadonov (who was far from his best tonight) his first of the season for 5-3.

In the end, the Panthers dug themselves in too big of a hole to overcome, which is very reminiscent to last season’s team. The defensive errors did settle down as the game went on, but just too little too late.

There are some positives to take. This was Florida’s worst performance of the season so far, which should put them in a good position to bounce back. Another positive is that the defensive pairings did look better after Joel Quenneville made alterations, and Sam Montembeault put in a performance to be proud of, but it just wasn’t enough.

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The team need to make sure that they do respond well because their next opponent will be a surprise test in the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are 2-0-1 to start the season, and always seem to play the Panthers tough in Western New York. That game is on Friday at 7:00 P.M.