Sunrise, FL – After nine days off during the All-Star break, some may have been thinking about how quickly the Florida Panthers would be able to shake the rust off, as they face the Philadelphia Flyers. The answer: almost immediately. But then, somehow, the rust came back.
The Panthers came out firing, getting off five shots on goal, 13 shots total, four big scoring chances, and two shots off the post, all in the first five minutes.
They were finally rewarded for their efforts 14 seconds into their first power play of the night, about halfway through the first period. Carter Verhaeghe fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that whizzed past Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson.
After that, the Panthers were plagued by neutral zone breakdowns, turnovers, and a hot Philadelphia goalie for the next 50 minutes.
Florida did get away with sloppy play for most of the game. But eventually, it caught up with them.
Tied at 1-1 early in the third period, Gustav Forsling made a cross-ice pass to Aaron Ekblad within the defensive zone. The pass was intercepted by Noah Cates, who flung a shot past Florida goaltender Anthony Stolarz for the go-ahead goal.
Noah Cates forces a turnover and scores an unassisted goal
Flyers lead 2-1 with 17:24 left in the 3rd
— Alex Krutchik (@AlexKrutchikFOF) February 7, 2024
“I didn’t like the way we supported the puck,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “I thought we got stretched in the game and we didn’t need to. There weren’t a lot of plays. They flipped a lot of pucks. We couldn’t get a handle on them, and it started to stretch our game out. We couldn’t generate anything. We looked like we hadn’t been on the ice in about a week.”
“I thought he looked like he hadn’t played in a while, to be honest with you,” Maurice said of Cousins, who was playing his first game since suffering a concussion on Jan. 2 against the Phoenix Coyotes. “And I don’t think his linemates were making it easy on him. So they deserved each other.”
Meanwhile, Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson made life hard for Panthers skaters. The Swede goalie stopped 20 shots, with his only goal allowed coming on Verhaeghe’s power-play goal.
Perhaps the only bright spot in Tuesday’s loss was Anthony Stolarz. The 30-year-old got the nod coming out of the break over starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Stolarz stopped 23 of 25 saves, including four high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Panthers will have the opportunity to get back at it quickly with a game against the Washington Capitals at 7 pm on Thursday in Sunrise.