The Florida Panthers played one of their ugliest games of the 2019-20 season on Saturday, getting their third win against the Detroit Red Wings this season with a 4-1 win.
This was an incredibly frustrating game to watch, the Florida Panthers were very flat for a majority of the game, whilst the Red Wings were just plain awful. Both teams were able to conjure up good scoring chances, especially in the first period, but neither team really took their chances.
In fairness, both goalies, Jimmy Howard and Sergei Bobrovsky, played incredible games. Howard saved 13 out of 15 first period shots before settling down after a wild end to the first. Howard would save 34 out of 37 shots faced, with the Cats’ last goal coming on an empty net.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s first game against Detroit with the Panthers went exactly the way he would’ve hoped for. The Panthers won 4-0, with Bobrovsky getting his first shutout with Florida. Last night, he was nothing short of exceptional. Bob’s 27 saves on 28 shots faced, with nothing he could’ve done against the lone goal given up.
The first period was aggravating for the first 17 minutes of play. Florida dominated the game, outshooting Detroit by as much as 11 at one point, but kept getting in their own way. Early penalties taken by Brett Connolly and Mark Pysyk put the Panthers shorthanded twice inside the opening eight minutes.
After holding off, Florida got on the power play for four minutes after Patrik Nemeth hit Aaron Ekblad up high, yet the Panthers were unable to take advantage. Next, Vincent Trocheck got into his first of many skirmishes with Filip Hronek. Trocheck was annoyingly pretty distracted from the game tonight, and more focused on his side beef with Hronek, which limited Florida.
Finally, Florida broke through with roughly three minutes to go. Josh Brown played an excellent stretch pass to Jonathan Huberdeau, who rolled the puck to Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov walked into the attacking zone and beat Howard with a wrist shot for his 21st of the season, his seventh point in the last eight games to put Florida ahead.
Soon after, the Panthers would double their lead. Aaron Ekblad made an impressive play to move in and square the puck to Mark Pysyk, who scored at the second time of asking to make it 2-0. For Pysyk, he’s really starting to grow as a defensive winger, now with five points in his last seven games.
The second period got off to that same sort of frustration that the Panthers dealt with for a vast majority of the first. After failing to go up 3-0 on the power play, Dylan Larkin bounced right out of the box, picked out by Darren Helm. Larkin skated in all alone, giving Bobrovsky no chance, and giving the Red Wings a goal back out of absolutely nothing.
This goal wasn’t a kind of goal where anybody was to blame. Sure, Aaron Ekblad wasn’t aware Larkin was out of the box when he should’ve, but even if he was, I’m not sure if he would catch up with Larkin.
For the next fifteen minutes of hockey, stranding in both the second and third periods, Florida would do almost everything to see Detroit tie the game. The Panthers failed to control the puck, didn’t force the Red Wings into any mistakes, and took four straight penalties, with Detroit unable to take advantage.
This leads me to the main point of this game, the penalties. There were a total of 13 penalties given in this game, with seven going against Florida. Between these, there would be just one goal scored. While a lot of the issue might have been with the referees rather than the Panthers’ play, Joel Quenneville should know that his team cannot take seven penalties in one game.
Fortunately, Florida killed off all seven penalties, and finally got a power play goal of their own with six minutes to play. Keith Yandle‘s shot up high was redirected in front by Aleksander Barkov for his 15th goal of the season to make it 3-1.
This isn’t the kind of game Florida can play often and expect to win. Taking seven penalties is extremely risky against any NHL team, even Detroit. Sergei Bobrovsky and the defense deserve some nice praise after the forward core weren’t as flashy as they usually were, despite the shots on goal and four goals.
Regardless, a win is a win, and an important win for Florida. With this win and Toronto’s 6-2 loss to Chicago at home, the Panthers have now passed Toronto for 3rd in the Atlantic. The two are still tied on points, and there is plenty of time to play this season, but the Panthers are in a good spot.
The Cats have two games in hand on Toronto, as well as Columbus and Philadelphia for the two wild card spots in case Toronto surpass Florida. The Panthers are currently one point behind the Jackets and Flyers.
This win also marked the first time the Panthers have won four games in a row under Joel Quenneville. The Cats now have two more games before the all-star break, returning to action Monday in Minnesota, as the Panthers look to split the season series with the Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 P.M.