The Florida Panthers were at home for the first time in 2020, looking to start their four-game homestand off with a win.
Both teams came prepared to play to open up the first as scoring chances were hard to come by. Arizona stuck by their stubborn defensive philosophy, making it hard for the Panthers to generate anything of substance.
The Coyotes came close to opening up the scoring first as Lawson Crouse walked in alone and fired a shot off the crossbar. Moments later, Jonathan Huberdeau rushed down the ice – after being sprung with a pass by Aleksander Barkov – and struck iron, as well.
As the period progressed, Florida managed to open up the game, controlling most of the play in the Coyotes’ end. They peppered Adin Hill with some rubber, but the 23-year-old turned each shot aside with ease.
The Panthers were rewarded with the game’s first power play after Crouse committed an interference call, but despite creating some good looks in front of goal, none were concrete enough to strike first.
Both teams would head to the dressing room after a period of play tied scoreless. Chris Driedger and Adin Hill were both sharp for their respective sides, stopping 11 and 14 shots, respectively.
To open up the second, the Coyotes received their first power play of the game after Evgenii Dadonov committed a trip. Arizona wasted no time cashing in as Christian Dvorak redirected Taylor Hall’s shot to put the Coyotes on the board first.
The play was later reviewed for a potential high-stick, but after carefully looking at the replay, no high-stick was found, therefore ruling a good goal on the ice.
After conceding, the Panthers were determined to find an equalizer, pushing play hard down the ice and causing all sorts of problems in the Coyotes zone. Their first of the night came through Noel Acciari, who redirected Keith Yandle’s point shot to level the game at one.
The game was presented with some 4-on-4 action after Aleksander Barkov and Christian Fischer both exchanged some shoves and punches, resulting in both sitting for roughing. Brett Connolly, unfortunately, was later called with a reckless trip, sending Arizona to a 44-second 4-on-3 power play.
Like their previous power-play opportunity, the Coyotes (again) didn’t waste any time, regaining their lead through Taylor Hall – who sniped an identical shot like his one on Dvorak’s opener.
Lawson Crouse raced down the ice with a few minutes left in play, hitting the iron for the second time of the night, coming close to doubling Arizona’s lead.
Just before the second period expired, Hall was called for a hook, sending the Panthers back to the man advantage. Florida didn’t have a lot of time to get set up, but 58 seconds would carry over to start the third.
The 58 seconds that were remaining on the power play to begin the third wasn’t enough as Arizona perfectly contained Florida’s top power-play unit, keeping them out of their zone.
Later, Vincent Trocheck took a hard hit into the boards, shaken up and slow to get to the bench. He headed down the tunnel and would return five minutes later.
As Aaron Ekblad tried to clear the zone with a saucer pass, Taylor Hall intercepted it out of mid-air and walked in uncontested on Driedger. Thankfully, Driedger came up big to deny Hall and keep the game within one.
The Panthers continued to push for that equalizer but were unable to get shots by Hill, let alone his defense – who were blocking just about everything. Instead, off a quick break the other way, Carl Soderberg was sprung on a breakaway and made no mistake by roofing a backhander over Driedger to give the Coyotes a 4-2 lead.
Arizona would then go on to add an empty netter through former Panther Lawson Crouse, going on to defeat the Cats by a score of 5-2.
In short, the Panthers fought hard and got a lot of shots off but were poor clinically and had lapses of defensive mistakes which the Coyotes took full advantage of. It’s games like these that you have to win when playoffs are the aim, no matter how tight the game may be. The Cats are ultimately going to have to figure things out and find a way to be more consistent.
Your Panthers are back in action on Thursday, January. 9 @ 7 P.M. against the Vancouver Canucks to play the second game of their four-game homestand.