The Florida Panthers got back in the win column Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes on the back of both the usual suspects and some surprise heroes. There was a hat trick, a line brawl, goalies taking penalties, and a goalie getting an assist! Let’s jump in and break it down.
That’s One Way To Start A Game
Florida didn’t wait long to get the party started, as the rebound of a shot from Gus Forsling was corraled by the Captain, Sasha Barkov, who slid it across the crease to Matthew Tkachuk, who fired a one-timer into the yawning cage just 69 seconds after the game began. The 18th goal of the season for Matthew Tkachuk, assisted by Aleksander Barkov (his 19th of the season) and Gustav Forsling (20) at 1:09 in period 1, ARI 0-1 FLA.
The Coyotes responded with some pressure and physical play in the Panthers’ zone, creating more scoring opportunities throughout the first period, but G Spencer Knight stood tall. And then the Cats fourth line decided it was their turn to have some fun. Defenseman Marc Staal fired a shot through traffic that was sent into the corner by Karel Vejmelka and collected by Marc’s brother Eric who shot it off the side of Vejmelka’s mask and in for the second goal of the game. The 5th goal of the season for Eric Staal, his 11th point (5G, 6A) in the last 16 games, unassisted at 11:21 in period 1, ARI 0-2 FLA.
Uninvited Guests Crash The Party
The Coyotes applied heavy pressure for the remainder of the period. They were rewarded for it with a power-play opportunity as Aaron Ekblad took a holding penalty with 40 seconds left in the first. And with only 2.1 seconds remaining, local boy, Jakob Chychrun snuck one past Knight to bring Arizona back within a goal. The 5th goal of the season for Jakob Chychrun, assisted by Clayton Keller (22) and Nick Schmaltz (10) on the power-play at 19:57 in period 1, ARI 1-2 FLA. The period would end with the Cats up by a goal but trailing 12-8 in shots on goal.
And they weren’t finished, coming out for the second period with the gas pedal firmly pressed to the floor. Spencer Knight kept them at bay until Clayton Keller decided he wouldn’t take no for an answer and skated around the slot and fired a backhand across the net and past Knight to tie the game. Goal number 14 on the season for Keller, assisted by Juuso Valimaki (8) at 7:17 in period 2, ARI 2-2 FLA.
Florida didn’t take too kindly to that and went with full offensive zone pressure for the next five minutes until Josh Mahura worked a puck off the boards and sent a textbook pass right in front of the net for Tkachuk to bury and put the Panthers ahead once again. The second of the game and 19th of the season for Tkachuk, assisted by Josh Mahura (6) at 10:37 in period 2, ARI 2-3 FLA.
And then, because nothing is ever certain in the National Hockey League, the Yotes tied it up three minutes later on a deflection by former Panther Nick Bjugstad. The 10th of the season for Nick Bjugstad, assisted by J.J. Moser (13) and Jack McBain (3) at 13:59 in period 2, ARI 3-3 FLA. And to add to the chaos, three minutes after THAT, Eric Staal continued his torrent pace on a shot from the high slot to give the Panthers the lead, this time for good. The second of the game and sixth of the season for Eric Staal, assisted by Ryan Lomberg (5) and Tkachuk (27) at 16:01 in period 2, ARI 3-4 FLA.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Hats
The Cats kept the pressure on for the next few minutes with some work in the offensive zone until the 18:19 mark, when Nick Cousins drew a high-sticking penalty from the goalie Vejmelka, putting Florida on the power play. They peppered the goalie with four shots on net in the first minute of the power play, but the Coyotes were able to clear the puck down to the other end of the ice and took the opportunity to change the penalty-killing units. Spencer Knight took full advantage of the situation and fired the puck to Sam Reinhart at the Coyotes’ blue line. He then fired it in front for Tkachuk to send towards the net. Vejmelka saved the initial shot, but Tkachuk was right there to tap the rebound home and complete his fourth career hat trick, his first as a Panther. The third of the game and 20th of the season for Tkachuk, scored on the power play, assisted by Sam Reinhart (14) and Spencer Knight (1) at 19:29 in period 2, ARI 3-5 FLA.
The third period was uneventful in terms of scoring, but both teams had power play opportunities and sent a combined 23 shots on net. There was a line brawl halfway through the period after Shayne Gostisbehere took a run at Barkov with what looked to be a borderline boarding penalty. Tkachuk wasted no time jumping all over Shayne, and that’s when everyone on the ice grabbed a sparring partner, including Barkov himself. In the end, both Tkachuk and Radko Gudas got minor penalties for roughing, and Nick Ritchie got one as well. No penalty was assessed to Shayne, much to the dismay of what turned out to be a sellout crowd at FLA Live Arena.
Barkov gets hit and Tkachuk springs into action. pic.twitter.com/dg5UhL9SEj— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) January 4, 2023
The Cats held on to win this one by the score of 5-3, improving to 17-18-4 and hopefully starting to tip the scales in their favor as they head on the road.
Noah’s Notes and What’s Next
- Note: Originally, Marc Staal was credited with an assist on his brother’s first goal, but the goal was changed to unassisted, ruining the cool “brothers” goal.
- I can’t find the point in the game that this happened, but Marc Staal ended up causing one of the Coyotes to tackle Spencer Knight leading to a picture with some epic meme potential.
- Spencer Knight recorded his first career NHL point with his assist on Tkachuk’s third goal.
- Givani Smith and Ryan Lomberg are a match made in heaven.
- Eric Staal is having quite the redemption arc.
- Cats hit the road!
- Friday night in Detroit.
- And apparently, the Panthers now have team dogs!?!?!?! HECK YEAH!
The moment you've all been waiting for…— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 5, 2023
Introducing Gato & Sunny 🐶🐾 pic.twitter.com/NzQaxozCvv