The Florida Panthers snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes.
Joel Quenneville‘s Panthers were forced to adjust from the Vincent Trocheck trade, with new centers Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark making their debuts just over 24 hours after being traded from Carolina. The two slotted in on the second and third lines as the Florida Panthers searched for a must win game in the desert.
After a rough game against Los Angeles, Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the net for Florida. Bobrovsky was immense for Florida tonight, picking up 36 out of 37 saves, with his only goal given up being a rebound that frankly, should have been better defended.
As for the debutants, both were important pieces to the cog for the Panthers tonight. Wallmark almost gave the Panthers the lead less than three minutes in, re-directing a shot onto the post. The shot had Darcy Kuemper, who was making his first start since December, beat, but the right iron denied Wallmark of a debut goal.
The Florida Panthers had two chances on the power play tonight, both leading to goals. Unfortunately, the first goal went to Arizona.
After Sergei Bobrovsky made one of his few errors tonight, misplaying the puck, Vinny Hinostroza seized it behind Bobrovsky’s netting. After nobody tried to play Hinostroza, the ex-Blackhawk sent the puck in front for Brad Richardson, who had his first shot saved, but lashed home his second chance to make it 1-0 Arizona.
The defensive play tonight was poor to start the game, with plenty of one-on-one chances for Arizona early on. Bobrovsky got the best out of these chances, thwarting Phil Kessel and Nick Schmaltz on high-quality chances that easily could’ve put Arizona 3-0 up.
As the second period begun, the game got less and less open, with both teams exchanging chance after chance. The Panthers did well to move the puck around in the offensive zone, especially through the top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgenii Dadonov, but the chances just didn’t seem to come for the Panthers, with Kuemper holding a shutout for the first 31 minutes.
That shutout would be broken by Frank Vatrano, getting his 16th goal of the season. New Panther Erik Haula set a good screen in front of Kuemper’s goal, with Mike Hoffman setting up Vatrano to level the game. The goal was Vatrano’s first in two weeks, when Vatrano scored in the 5-3 win at New Jersey.
Despite being outplayed, the Panthers buckled down and played some impressive defense. MacKenzie Weegar did well to hold Taylor Hall in check, Anton Stralman had a productive night, and Riley Stillman was very impressive throughout the game. Set aside his big hits on Christian Dvorak and Hinostroza, Stillman was efficient with the puck and covered ground very well tonight.
After another penalty, the Panthers snagged the lead a little under halfway through the third. The Panthers drew up a very good set play, with Keith Yandle throwing the puck behind the goal to Barkov, who laterally moved it to Huberdeau, sending it out in front for a wide-open Mike Hoffman to put Florida ahead.
This was Hoffman’s 25th on the season, marking four out of five games for the road trip that he’d scored in, not to mention five points in his last three games (3 goals, 2 assists).
With some strong play from Bobrovsky, the Panthers were able to hold on in Arizona for a much-needed 2-1 win away from home. The win puts the Panthers onto 72 points, two points back of Toronto for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic.
The Panthers’ next opponent? Toronto on Thursday night, as much of a must-win game as there was one. The Cats return home for the first time in 12 days at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday.