The Florida Panthers took care of business Friday night (Dec. 10), dispatching of the cellar-dwelling Arizona Coyotes, 3-1, in Glendale. The win sent the Panthers to 18-4-4 on the season. Arizona suffered its fourth loss in a row, dropping to 5-19-2 on the season. Here are three takeaways from Florida’s win.
Panthers Get Scoring Out of the Way Early
In a game that featured four total goals, none were scored in the second or third period. Patric Hornqvist opened the scoring 9:05 into the first period, burying the puck high side against Arizona goaltender Scott Wedgewood. Just 10 seconds later, Sam Bennett made it 2-0, snapping one under Wedgewood’s glove.
The Coyotes pulled one back 16:53 into the first on a power-play goal by Phil Kessel. Kessel found an opening and fired a shot under the blocker of Sergei Bobrovsky. However, with 25 seconds remaining in the opening period, Sam Reinhart gave the Panthers insurance, scoring a power-play goal from the slot.
That would do it as far as the scoring went, as the Panthers just tried to hang on to their two-goal lead for the remainder of the game. As Bennett said, “It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we got the lead early and we played a pretty solid game. We weren’t our sharpest, but we fought through and ended up getting the win, which is the most important part.”
Panthers Have Two Multi-Point Performances and a Debut
The Panthers were led by Hornqvist and Reinhart Thursday night. Each player had both a goal and an assist. The 34-year-old Hornqvist struck first and had the primary assist on the final goal, which was scored by Reinhart. The 26-year-old center also had the primary assist on Bennett’s goal.
Along with the goal and assist, Hornqvist finished with two shots and two penalty minutes in 15:22 of ice time. He has four goals and nine assists on the season. Reinhart also finished with two shots and two penalty minutes, along with his assist and power-play goal, in 18:05 of ice time. So far this season, he has eight goals and 12 assists.
Thursday night was also the Panthers debut for Olli Juolevi, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 10. The 23-year-old defenseman appeared in 23 games for the Canucks last season, registering two goals and an assist. He tallied one giveaway and one shot in 10:17 of ice time Thursday night against Arizona.
Other notable performances for the Panthers on Thursday night include Bobrovsky, who stopped 22 of 23 shots, Jonathan Huberdeau, who extended his point streak to five games with a secondary assist on Reinhart’s goal, and Ryan Lomberg, who had the primary assist on Hornqvist’s goal and registered a team-high four hits.
Polar Opposites in the Standings
Thursday night’s contest was a meeting between the best team in the NHL and the worst team in the NHL. Following the win, the Panthers have 40 points, tops in the league. Their 98 goals rank second in the league, behind the Colorado Avalanche (105). Arizona’s 12 points and 45 goals both rank dead last in the league.
It took 26 games for the Panthers to reach 40 points on the season, which is a franchise record for fewest games to reach 40 points (the previous record was 27 games in 1996 and 2020).
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The Panthers are back in action Sunday (Dec. 12) in Colorado to battle the Avalanche. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET. The Coyotes are right back at it Saturday night (Dec. 11), hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at 9:00 PM ET.
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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.