In only his second start for the Florida Panthers, goalie Alex Lyon has made a massive impact for an underpowered position. With reeling injuries and a sudden matchup against a solid Minnesota squad, Lyon put on a show and Florida’s offense came up clutch as they knocked off the Wild by a score of 5-3.
The North is Heading Down South
The Florida Panthers have been hot as of late, winning four of their last six games with the majority being on the road. As the month of January progresses, however, the Panthers will be playing a lot more games at the FLA Live Arena. With a 22-20-5 record heading into this contest, momentum is a top priority for the Cats.
In their last game against the Montreal Canadiens, (A 6-2 win) veteran goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was injured early on. With Spencer Knight still recovering from an undisclosed injury, goalie duties were left up to Alex Lyon, making his first appearance for Florida after being picked up from the Carolina Hurricanes.
Alex Lyon will be in net tonight against Minnesota, per Coach Maurice.— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 21, 2023
Coach says Sergei Bobrovsky will not dress tonight and Eric Staal was put on IR.
Despite being suddenly hurled into a game, Lyon recorded 23 saves and only gave up two goals in a winning effort.
On the other side of the ice, Minnesota has been a solid team this season. They had won three straight games prior to a loss against the Carolina Hurricanes, but the Wild are sitting pretty with a 25-15-4 record and are in third place in the Central Division.
Slow and Cold, like a Minnesota Morning
Off a slow start for both teams in the first period, rhythm was hard to come by. Minnesota had thought they broke through Lyon for the first goal of the day, but a hooking penalty was called on the Wild right before, forcing some immediate short-handed hockey.
Florida kept up the pressure on Minnesota’s goalie, but their multiple shots were off, surprisingly inaccurate for a team that usually makes their shots count. This especially hurt Florida, who only managed four shots on goal in the first period. It wasn’t much better for the Wild who put up nine.
What also cranked up as the minutes passed was the physicality of both teams. There was much more pushing and shoving, especially after some shots on goal by Florida, spearheaded by left-wing Ryan Lomberg. Still, neither team’s offense could get out of the slump.
However, it was the Panthers who would score first with only seconds remaining in the first period. It all began with a breakaway by the captain, Aleksander Barkov, who passed the puck off to center Anton Lundell. He then sank a low-roller that got in between the knees of Minnesota’s goalie, Filip Gustavsson, and into the net for the first goal of the game right before intermission.
Anton Lundell is for the people pic.twitter.com/OphkQ54AaV— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 21, 2023
Goals with a Side of Walleye
The second period began completely different from that of the first period. It took Florida almost all of 19 minutes to break through on offense, but a goal came early when center Eetu Luostarinen broke through the Wild defense, seemingly unnoticed, and slapped a floater that once again got by Gustavsson, and the Cats led 2-0 just two minutes in.
It wasn’t like Minnesota took their foot off the gas pedal. The Wild kept putting the pressure on Lyon, but the Florida goalie kept headstrong, and the Panthers defense survived a Wild onslaught.
Lyon’s luck ran out when a slashing penalty was called on center Carter Verhaeghe. While the Panthers defense killed off most of the time lost, Minnesota left-wing Matt Boldy found himself at Lyon’s blind spot and tapped in the Wild’s first goal of the game.
Textbook Boldy goal(y) 🥵#mnwild pic.twitter.com/1GafEkf5wn— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) January 22, 2023
For the next 10 minutes, it was a defensive stalemate. Aside from the one blemish, Lyon had himself a wonderful second period, even with the Wild leading the shots category once again.
But just like the ending of the first period, the Panthers saved their best on offense for the final minute. After a roughing penalty on the Wild, Verhaeghe got his revenge with a power shot several feet away from the net that was too fast to track, and the Cats raised the lead back up to 3-1 heading to the third period.
The Lyon is Mightier than the Bear
Penalty woes continued to haunt both teams as the game reached the final 20 minutes. Three minutes in, a tripping call on Florida set up Minnesota to keep up the aggression. The Wild did not disappoint as center Joel Eriksson Ek capped off seven straight shots on Lyon, getting by him to bring the game back to a one-goal deficit.
Things got worse for the Panthers with 14 minutes left when defenseman Brandon Montour was called for a misconduct penalty for supposedly trying to pick a fight during a commercial timeout, and sat out the game for 10 minutes.
That didn’t stop Florida from trying to respond, and they would get their answer less than two minutes later when defenseman Gustav Forsling hit a ground shot that turned into a knuckleball and sailed right by Gustavsson and into the net for a bit more Panthers breathing room.
her first favorite animal: a panther— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 22, 2023
her second favorite animal: a lyon pic.twitter.com/pFwxunVqyD
The pressure was now on Minnesota to even it back up, and the Panthers didn’t make it easy. They stopped with the penalties and their defenseman backed up Lyon for the last minutes of the game.
With three minutes left, the Wild took out their goalie in exchange for another attacker, and they were successful enough to capitalize with one goal, but Florida then caught the offense lacking and center Sam Reinhart sank an empty netter to seal the game with a 5-3 final score.
The Snowbirds are Flying Home
On paper, Minnesota appeared to be the better team on the ice- hitting more shots, winning more faceoffs, blocking more shots, and spending much less time shorthanded. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep up with Florida’s more accurate offense.
The big story of the game was still Alex Lyon and his second straight win with the Panthers. 29 recorded saves- four of which came during power plays- were more than enough to keep the Wild at bay.
One big development for Florida is their success during power plays. They were notorious for their power play struggles during last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs run. However, the Panthers are now one of the best teams in the NHL when it comes to cashing in their power play goals.
Since Dec. 29, 2022, the top three league leaders in power-play points are all @flapanthers:— Florida Panthers PR (@FlaPanthersPR) January 22, 2023
1. Matthew Tkachuk (6-5-11)
2. Aleksander Barkov (3-7-10)
3. Sam Reinhart (2-7-9) pic.twitter.com/ryOQ2FQAXQ
Now, Florida is sitting with a 23-20-5 record and is still in fifth place in the Atlantic Division. There’s plenty of meaningful hockey on the horizon, with two road trips against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins this upcoming Monday and Tuesday before returning home for two games against the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins on Friday and Saturday.
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