Panthers Comeback Falls Short Against Minnesota

Panthers Minnesota

Photo by JC Ruiz

Sunrise, FL – The Florida Panthers will probably be happy to get on the road this weekend. Panthers have lost four straight games after losing 6-4 to the Minnesota Wild (19-21-5) on Friday night and rounded out their latest home stand going 1-2-2.

Aaron Ekblad scored early in the second period, his second goal of the season, to tie the game at 1-1. The Wild then scored three unanswered goals in the second period – all on the power play – before Eetu Luostarinen tapped in a goal during a scrum at the net with 1:33 left in the period.

Halfway through the second period, the Wild chased Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the game. He stopped 11 of 15 shots. Anthony Stolarz came in relief and allowed one goal in 10 shots.

Minnesota scored again early in the third period to take a 5-2 lead.

But the Panthers scored two goals in 18 seconds with a little over 11 minutes left in regulation – one from Anton Lundell and another from Gustav Forsling – to give the crowd at Amerant Bank Arena to believe again.

Unfortunately for them, it was too little, too late. The Panthers registered 14 shots on goal after those two goals, but Minnesota goaltender Filip Gustavsson stopped all of them. 

The Wild put the game on ice with an empty-net goal with 11 seconds left in the game.

Panthers Penalty Kill Was Feeble

The Panthers came into Friday’s game with the fifth-best penalty kill in the league, stopping 84.4 percent of opposing power plays. On Friday, the Panthers allowed a goal on five of six Minnesota power plays, including three in the second period.

“The things we’re really good at, we weren’t,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “And it starts with faceoffs and mostly clears after that. First goal was a nice play. But after that, they’re just pucks to the net and we’ve got to clear it out front and we’ve got to get some blocks.”

On top of being on the penalty kill for a large portion of the game, both teams spent a considerable amount of time in the box during the first two periods.

The first period saw three fights – the first of which was ignited by William Lockwood running into Minnesota starting goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury in the trapezoid behind the net. Every Wild player on the ice went over to Lockwood and immediately entered the fracas.

A few minutes later, Lockwood got into another fight, this time a 1-on-1 tilt with Minnesota forward Brandon Duhaime. Lockwood didn’t return to the game after that fight. After the game, Maurice didn’t give a specific injury or return timetable but said the team would take a look at him on Saturday and assess the situation from there.

The two teams only played 23:49 of 5-on-5 during the first two periods. For what it’s worth, Florida only allowed four shots on goal during that 5-on-5 time in the first two periods.

In the third period, played entirely 5-on-5, the Panthers out-shot the Wild, 19-11.

First Line Was Productive Without Barkov

First-line center Aleksander Barkov missed the final five minutes of the Panthers’ loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 15 with a lower-body injury. Since then, the Selke Trophy hopeful has missed two games, including Friday night’s loss to the Wild.

Since then, Eetu Luostarinen and Anton Lundell have been moved up from their typical third line to the first line, playing alongside first-line mainstay Sam Reinhart.

On Friday, Luostarinen scored on a tap-in during a scrum at the net in the second period. Lundell got a goal of his own in the third period off a rebound. 

In the past two games, each Luostarinen – Lundell – Reinhart line member has scored a goal, and they’ve combined for three assists. 

Photo | JC Ruiz

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