Panthers Win In Shootout Despite Penalty Disparity

Panthers Red Wings

Photo by JC Ruiz

Sunrise, FL – Injured players slotting in and out of the lineup, spotty officiating, anemic offense, poor defensive chemistry. Whatever you want to call it: the Florida Panthers had been in a funk for the last two weeks.

About halfway through Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings, the frustrations of this slide finally boiled over.

After being shut out for the first 53 minutes of the game and down 1-0, Aaron Ekblad exited the penalty box – one of six penalties the Panthers served Saturday – and bolted through the neutral zone into the attacking third where he received a pass from Aleksander Barkov. He brought the puck in deep and tapped a pass back to Barkov right at the crease for the goal. 

Ekblad was one of the few pieces that the Panthers missed these last few weeks. Thursday’s game against the Islanders was his first game back since suffering a lower-body injury against the Calgary Flames on March 9.

“He was the biggest reason the first goal was scored,” Barkov said. “And obviously his physicality and just his leadership that we missed when he was out. He’s a huge, huge factor in the back end.”

While not the only reason for their struggles, it was hard to ignore the fact that referee Chris Rooney, who called five penalties against the Panthers in their most recent game against the New York Islanders on Thursday while only calling one penalty against the Isles, also called six penalties against Florida on Saturday while only calling one against the Red Wings.

Panthers head coach Paul Maurice didn’t attribute the team’s frustration to the officials, but he did sarcastically quip after the game that the Panthers wanted to work more on their penalty kill.

“I petitioned the league for a little more penalty time,” Maurice said. “They’ve been good about it. So pretty happy.”

About two minutes later, Ekblad got into a post-whistle scrum with Detroit winger Alex DeBrincat which ended with Ekblad bringing him to the ground.

Both of them were sent to the box, giving way to 4-on-4 hockey.

Barkov scored his second of the afternoon during that sequence when he managed to roll the puck in while jockeying with three Detroit defenders in front of the net.

“I think we’ve needed the frustration that we’ve been seeing,” Maurice said. “That’s a players’ win for me because the coach didn’t have much to say today. I really liked the way they ran the bench, and I liked the way they came together. I thought that was really important.”

After the refs called a tripping penalty on Brandon Montour – that was really just a hard hip check – 18 seconds later, the Red Wings scored the tying goal on the 4-on-3 advantage.

The Panthers eventually won it in the shootout. After Sam Reinhart buried a shot in the first round, Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all three Detroit shots against Lucas Raymond, Patrick Kane, and Dylan Larkin.

Bobrovsky stopped 21 of 23 shots he faced.

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