Florida Panthers Start Well, Fail to Take Chances in 5-4 OT Loss to Colorado

The Florida Panthers yet again did enough to earn one point, but couldn’t do enough to secure two, losing 5-4 to the Colorado Avalanche in overtime.

This was the Florida Panthers‘ third game in their last four that they earned at least one point. Whereas the last two finished in shootouts, Colorado cut OT short, with Nathan MacKinnon burying the winner.

With Florida falling to 1-1-1 at home and 2-2-3 on the year, there are several highs and lows that this team has had in this young season, and this game was a perfect kind of way to simplify how the team has played. Brilliant in the first, poor in the second, and average in the third and OT.

An issue that has plagued multiple Panthers teams of the past has been a lack of clinical goalscoring, and while the game didn’t start that way, it ended as such. The Cats mustered up 28 shots on goal in the final 43:03 after the 1st period, but scored just once.

The game got off to a really good start for Florida, and there were plenty of positives to take. The Panthers were buzzing throughout the first period, forcing giveaway after giveaway from Colorado, taking shot after shot, sticking together as a unit, and eventually leading by two goals on two seperate occassions.

The Cats, similarly to Monday’s start versus New Jersey, got the scoring going bright and early. MacKenzie Weegar combined with Aaron Ekblad before releasing a brilliant pass to Jonathan Huberdeau, who slid the puck past Philipp Grubauer from the left wing, giving Florida the lead inside four minutes.

This was Huberdeau’s 6th straight game with a point, with the French-Canadian briming with confidence since opening night. Weegar also collected his fifth point in his last five with the assist.

Then, it looked as though Florida got themselves in trouble, as Josh Brown (who had a really poor night) got called for a questionable double minor, giving the Avs a 4:00 power play. Whereas a lot of people would’ve tipped an elite power play like Colorado’s, holstered by star talent like Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, to tie the game, Florida impressed a lot of people.

During the 4:00 span, shots on goal were tied at two apiece, the goal went Florida’s way. A combination of Denis Malgin and Anton Stralman worked the puck free before Malgin unleashed Frank Vatrano. Vatrano proved too fast for Erik Johnson, sliding home his first goal of the season to double Florida’s lead.

Colorado would bounce back just 2:29 after the shorthanded goal, however. Ian Cole‘s shot from near the blue line was batted down to himself by Joonas Donskoi, taking Sergei Bobrovsky by surprise, and beating the Russian netminder for his 3rd goal of the season, halving the deficit.

The Panthers, who had forced a lot of giveaways during this period with no avail, got their result with 5:03 to go in the first. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau combined after Josh Brown forced a turnover, and Huberdeau burried his 2nd goal of the night to ensure Florida had their two-goal lead back, 3-1 FLA at the end of the first.

In the first intermission, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar changed some tactics up to attempt to get Colorado back into the picture. Florida failed to respond, but even with that, Colorado was struggling to take their chances, with the score still 3-1 halfway through the second.

It seemed like Florida took Colorado for granted, and eventually, the Avs punished them. While Florida’s grit 4th line has been so good this year, it was the Colorado grinders that halved the deficit for a second time. Pierre-Edouard Bellmare was allowed to pass the puck through the slot, finding Matt Nieto for his 2nd goal of the season.

Then 33 seconds later, the Avs found their tying goal. Andre Burakovsky broke in and unleashed a bullet of a wrister over Sergei Bobrovsky, and Colorado tied the game. It had been coming too, Florida were outplayed for a majority of the 2nd period.

The bits where they weren’t outplayed, the Panthers retook the lead. Brett Connolly bagged his 3rd goal in two games, getting his first home goal for the Panthers with a wrist shot past Grubauer at his near post to make it 4-3 Florida.

Yet, even with that, Florida held the lead for just sixteen seconds. Andre Burakovsky bagged his second goal off the game from a set of miscommunication from Florida, and the game was level at 4 going into the third.

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Now, Florida did play the better of the two sides in the third and eventual overtime, with Colorado presenting multiple chances for the Panthers to seize the game, yet the Cats never took them. The most frustrating part of tonight had to be special teams.

Both teams failed to muster a power play goal on seven power play chances between the two, including Brown’s 4:00 double minor. After Colorado got the first three power plays of the game, Florida got the next four, with three of them coming in the final frame of regulation, but failed to prosper on any of their chances.

Florida were such an elite team on the man advantage last season, and the flaws of their weaker 5-on-5 play are beginning to really show. Not only did Florida miss multiple chances, but they really struggled to maintain the puck consistently in the offensive zone.

After both teams squandered high caliber chances in both the third and overtime, it was Nathan MacKinnon, who was a game-time decision going into the night, who burried the winner. Florida failed to take chance after chance in overtime, with Mike Matheson and Aleksander Barkov denied, finally ended off by MacKinnon’s laser of a wrist shot into the top shelf, sealing Colorado’s 6th win out of seven to start the season.

Florida took another point, but to an extent, they can’t keep settling for one rather than earning two. These are the kinds of problems that have plagued Florida in years past, and soon enough, they need to fix themself.

Next: Cats Rally to Top NJD, 6-4

Joel Quenneville will have minimal time to think about tonight’s results, as the Panthers will drop the puck again Saturday Night from Nashville. That game starts at 8:00 P.M. as the Cats face the Preds.