After three tries in the previous week, the Florida Panthers finally got it done in the extra frame, hanging on to beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 in the shootout.
This win definitely is one that Joel Quenneville should be proud of. While a 3-2 win away from home against a division winner from last season looks impressive as it is, there were a lot of unexpected takeaways from this one.
For one, the Florida Panthers won a game with defense. If you’re a Panthers fan, you know how little we get to say that. Florida kept Nashville scoreless for the first 49 minutes of play, with blocked shot after blocked shot and save after save from Sam Montembeault.
Montembeault, who stopped 28 of 30 shots in open play, denied all three Predators shooters (Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris) in the shootout. He gets a well-earned first win of the season, and keeps his early-season stats seriously impressive, playing incredibly well in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky.
The other massive takeaway is how the Florida Panthers really dug deep in this one. Five minutes into the game, captain Aleksander Barkov skated off the ice and headed straight to the locker room. Barkov would not return the rest of the game, with the Panthers confirming an “upper-body” injury. No further details have been announced at this time.
So, for roughly 60 minutes, the Florida Panthers played with three centers. Even for a bit of that time, they played with two, as Vincent Trocheck awkwardly blocked a Ryan Ellis shot with his right ankle, near the end of the first period.
Fortunately, though, Trocheck would return to the game and help the Panthers win. Trocheck tallied one point tonight (a primary assist) and scored the lone goal in the shootout.
For the other two centers, absolutely bravo to both Denis Malgin and Noel Acciari. Both played huge roles in the win, logging some impressive personal stats and making some big plays when it mattered.
For one, Malgin opened up the game’s scoring in the second period. After a seriously bleak first frame in which shots stood 8-5 to Nashville, Florida finally got it going on the man advantage. Following a seriously poor 0/4 performance on the power play against Colorado on Friday, the Cats got their goal on the power play.
Two of the three centers combined as Vincent Trocheck slid the puck through the slot for Denis Malgin, who swiftly slid the puck past Pekka Rinne, who was incredible between the Preds’ pipes, to give Florida the 1-0 lead. That made two goals in a week for Malgin, Keith Yandle picked up the secondary assist.
After enduring some serious Nashville pressure towards the end of the second, Florida got a goal against the run of play. Brett Connolly, who had been red-hot this week, pulled the trigger from just inside the offensive zone, getting through a horde of players, fooling Rinne, and giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead with less than a minute to go in the second.
This was Connolly’s fourth goal in three games, making a huge impact for Joel Quenneville in both ends.
As mentioned, the Panthers won this game with defense. Other than a brief four-minute stint in which Nashville tied the game, the Cats defensemen had a lot to be proud of tonight.
MacKenzie Weegar, Mike Matheson, and Anton Stralman were very impressive throughout the game, all for different reasons. Weegar forced a lot of Preds giveaways, Matheson made some really impressive effort plays on both ends, especially late in the game, and Stralman recorded three blocks and was incredible position-wise.
Even Mark Pysyk, who played his second straight game at RW, seems to really be settling into the role. Pysyk recorded another three shots on goal and has really been helping Frank Vatrano push further up the ice.
Nashville did get the game tied in the third period, however. Defenseman Roman Josi scored off a Predators offensive zone faceoff win with Florida unable to move from the left side to the right side to stop his slapshot from piercing off the post and in. With the momentum, Kyle Turris steamed into the zone, firing past Aaron Ekblad (who was also really good tonight, making one particularly great poke check on Matt Duchene) and Montembeault into the top shelf to tie it with 6:30 to go.
Going into another OT, it looked like Florida had given the game away again late on when Aaron Ekblad was called for a tripping penalty with 36 seconds to play in OT. The Predators would have a 4-on-3 power play and a huge chance to win.
This is where I give major props to Acciari, Matheson, and Stralman. All three held their shape in front of Montembeault, not giving Nashville anywhere to shoot, and eventually, Acciari blocking Ryan Ellis’ shot to clear and force the shootout.
This was one of five Noel Acciari blocks from his career-high 21:53 of ice time. Asked to play a much bigger role tonight, with the injury, Acciari was seriously one of the best skaters on the ice all night, not making any mistakes and putting a solid effort in the defensive zone and the boards.
In the shootout, the Panthers emerged victorious. Sam Montembeault made three incredible saves, showing great poise and patience for such a young goalie. Vincent Trocheck’s backhander past Rinne set up Montembeault to deny Turris, giving the Panthers a much-needed road win.
The win moved the Panthers to 3-2-3, with 9 points on the year. The Panthers will take the ice next on Tuesday night at 7:00, hosting Sidney Crosby‘s Pittsburgh Penguins at BB&T Center.