The Florida Panthers had a disappointing night on Tuesday (Dec. 14), losing a sloppy game to the Ottawa Senators, 8-2, in Sunrise. The loss dropped the Panthers to an 18-6-4 record on the season while the Senators improved to 9-16-1. Here are three takeaways from Florida’s blowout loss.
Not the Panthers’ Sharpest Performance
Tuesday night’s game was in stark contrast to Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche when the Panthers and Avs combined for six turnovers (three by each team). The Senators game featured 27 total giveaways, 15 by Ottawa and 12 by Florida. The Panthers had trouble controlling the puck and keeping it out of their own zone, which led to numerous breakaways and scoring opportunities for Ottawa.
The Senators got on the board first when Austin Watson snuck a rebound past Spencer Knight 4:38 into the first period. Jonathan Huberdeau tied it at the 13:05 mark, getting in position in front of the net and shelving a backhand pass from Sam Reinhart past Ottawa goaltender Anton Forsberg.
With the Panthers on the power play a minute and a half into the second period, MacKenzie Weegar lost the puck to Dylan Gambrell, who took it the other way for a shorthanded breakaway goal. Reinhart answered 15:33 into the second, stealing the puck right in front of the Ottawa net, backhanding it to Anton Lundell, then cleaning up the rebound after Lundell’s shot was padded away by Forsberg.
The stalemate didn’t last long; a giveaway in the neutral zone by Aleksi Heponiemi, who was making his season debut after being recalled from Charlotte, led to Josh Norris’ goal 16:06 into the second. Initially, it was not signaled a goal, but upon review, the puck clearly went off the inside of the post and bounced off the back of the net.
The floodgates opened from there. Just over a minute after the Norris goal, Tim Stutzle blasted a goal from the high slot after the Panthers failed to clear the zone. Twenty-three seconds into the third period, Drake Batherson extended Ottawa’s lead to 6-2 after Norris took the puck away from Knight behind the Panthers net. Huberdeau and Weegar were both assessed game misconducts halfway through the period, before Brady Tkachuk and Nick Paul tacked on power-play goals to ice it for the Senators.
Panthers Can’t Capitalize on Power Play
Although the Panthers gave Ottawa plenty of scoring chances, they also got plenty of opportunities. They just couldn’t take advantage of them as the Senators did.
“Just too slow right from the start. Give (the Senators) credit, they came to work, they came to compete. Thought we were too soft early on and we were never able to find it. We haven’t really had one like this. It’s a long season, (games like this) are going to come, and it’s a matter of responding, getting our rest, regrouping, and coming back Thursday.”– Sam Reinhart, on the Panthers’ 8-2 loss to the Senators
The Panthers had six power plays on Tuesday night, including a brief two-man advantage. They failed to score and were only converted on two of the 35 shots they took on goal. By contrast, Ottawa was 2/4 on the man advantage and converted on eight of 38 shots.
Ottawa also won 56.7 percent of the night’s faceoffs and blocked 24 shots (the Panthers blocked 11) to outplay the Panthers throughout and did a better job of taking advantage of the opportunities they were given.
Rough Night for Knight
The rookie goaltender drew the start for the Panthers, spelling Sergei Bobrovsky, who has started 18 of Florida’s 28 games this season. Knight was put in difficult situations on multiple occasions and also let a few pucks past him that he probably shouldn’t have.
Knight faced 38 shots and saved 30. According to MoneyPuck.com, his expected goals against (xGoals Against) was 5.37, which is 2.63 less than the eight he actually gave up. That shows that he could’ve had a much better night but also wasn’t done many favors.
He now has a 3.44 goals-against average (GAA), and a .892 save percentage (SV%) in 10 starts, while Forsberg also made his 10th start, stopping 33 of 35 shots. Other noteworthy performances include Batherson, who registered four points (one goal, three assists) and three blocked shots, and Norris, who had an assist to go with his two goals.
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The Panthers will look to bounce back on Thursday (Dec. 16) when they host the Los Angeles Kings (12-10-5). Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM ET. Ottawa travels up the road to Tampa Bay to play the Lightning (18-6-4) on Thursday night at 7:00 PM ET.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.