Panthers Survive Against Hapless Ducks in OT Thriller

Sunrise, FL – With the Ducks, who are statistically the worst team in hockey coming to town, you would think the Florida Panthers would take care of business and lock up a playoff spot for the moment. They indeed did end up winning, but it took some late-game theatrics and an overtime game-winner to knock off the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 4-3.

Suspected of Fowl Play

Florida is still looking to lock up a playoff spot with the Ducks coming to town. but inconsistent play as of late has hindered their chances. After a tough loss on the road to the St. Louis Blues, the Cats impressed with a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals, only to give up seven goals in a blowout loss to the Nashville Predators.

An unexpected factor that has played into the Panthers inconsistency has been the injury bug. With multiple players including starters like Sam Bennett missing the last few games (Including the Ducks matchup) the Cats have had to adjust and regroup, and that hasn’t always worked out for them.

Anaheim, on the other hand, is cementing themselves as one of the worst teams in hockey. Entering the game with a 17-33-6 record, the Ducks have given up 26 goals in their last four games, all of which were losses against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights, Buffalo Sabres, and Los Angeles Kings.

The Ducks are let Loose

The first 12 minutes of the game didn’t feature much action as both offenses on the ice couldn’t get their rhythm going, even after a pair of penalties that produced short-handed hockey for a while. Maybe the fact that this was a rare day game on a Monday had something to do with it.

In any event, it was the Ducks who struck first, surprising given their record as of late and how they give up leads early. After crowding up Sergei Bobrovsky at the net, Anaheim center Mason McTavish landed a second-attempt wrist shot that flew in, giving the Ducks an early lead.

The Ducks wouldn’t let up, either. After a cross-checking penalty was called on the Panthers four minutes later, Anaheim kept up the pressure on Florida’s side of the ice. Right-wing Frank Vatrano, a former Panther, sealed the deal with a left-side shot that scorched into the net for a second goal, giving Anaheim some breathing room that would carry on into the second period.

No Staaling here, just Pressure

Florida woke up in the second period and wasted no time upping the ante on offense. The second period belonged to the Staal brothers of the Panthers.

Center Eric Stall kicked off the action two minutes in with a slapshot from distance that Ducks goalie John Gibson thought he had saved, but as the puck tricked into the net, the Cats cut the lead down to 2-1.

The Panthers took their time looking for an opportunity to strike. They had dominated the shots on goal for the majority of the time, at some points more than doubling what Anaheim was able to produce. Even so, the Ducks held on the lead for most of the game.

What didn’t help Florida was a goal they thought they had scored seven minutes later being taken off the board after an Anaheim challenge proved goalie interference on behalf of Florida, keeping the lead the same for the Ducks.

Six minutes later, defenseman Marc Stall scored for real, capitalizing off solid passing to the net with a quick tip-in for an equalizer. The 2-2 tie carried on into a decisive third period.

A Quacking Good Time

The first 13 minutes of the third period were busy, with penalties given out left and right, but no scoring was achieved by either team.

As luck would have it for the Ducks, they repeated the first period by being the ones to score first. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov pulled a mid-range floater that Bobrovsky couldn’t track in time, giving Anaheim the lead with seven minutes to go.

Most goals in this game were separated by multiple minutes, but the Panthers wasted no time responding. A little over a minute later, left-wing Ryan Lomberg intercepted a shot by Gustav Forsling in front of the net, which bounced off his skate into Gibson’s blind spot in the net, tying the game up once more.

Six minutes of pressure from Florida on Anaheim didn’t amount to any more scoring, so the game had to be decided in overtime. Much like their win against the Boston Bruins a while back, it didn’t take long for the Cats to find an answer.

After a shot by the Ducks sailed wide of the net, center Carter Verhaeghe broke away with the puck in possession, beating out the Anaheim defense and setting up an open shot against Gibson that he couldn’t stop, sealing the game in favor of Florida by a final score of 4-3.

A Mighty look at the Statistics

The Panthers were the dominant team on offense throughout the game in every category except the score. They finished the game with 55 registered shots, almost doubling Anaheim’s 32. They also delivered more hits, won more faceoffs, and achieved more takeaways.

As a result, the Ducks had to block more shots. Both teams had two power play opportunities, but Anaheim was the only team to score off of one.

With the win, Florida improves their record to 29-25-6 and are back in the Wild Card for the time being. It’s been a battle between the Panthers, the Penguins, the Sabres, and the Capitals for that final playoff spot, but at least for now, it belongs to Florida.

The Cats have the advantage of having most of their games in March at home. They’ll stay in Sunrise for a matchup against Buffalo on Friday, February 24th at 7 pm before heading north to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning four days later. Then, they’ll begin a seven-game homestand that’ll end on March 18th against the New Jersey Devils.

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