The Florida Panthers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 Tuesday night. Here’s a look back at what went right and wrong for the Panthers in their third game of the season, along with post-game thoughts by head coach Joel Quenneville.
Final 40 Minutes Push Back
After trailing 4-0 after the first period and 5-0 early in the second period, the Panthers did not quit and even managed to make it a two-goal game with just over four minutes to play. MacKenzie Weegar scored his first goal of the season early in the second period to cut the lead to 5-1 before a pair of power play goals in the third period closed the deficit to 5-3.
Blue Line Scoring
In addition to Weegar’s goal, defenseman Keith Yandle added a goal as he played in his 800th consecutive game. Yandle, who is the fifth NHL player to play in 800 consecutive games, hasn’t missed a regular-season game since March 22, 2009. He is only 164 games behind Doug Jarvis, who holds the all-time record with 964 consecutive games.
The Panthers power play improved its conversion to 30.8% on the young season. They netted a pair of third period, power-play goals by Yandle and Evgenii Dadonov, which follows the previous game in which they also scored twice with the man advantage. Last season, the Panthers finished with the second-best power play in the league and have started this year on the same track.
The first period in Tuesday’s game could not have gone much worse for the Panthers. They gave up four first period goals, failed to convert on a five-on-three that lasted for a minute and ten seconds and turned the puck over six times. They looked a step slow in the first 20 minutes and the undefeated Hurricanes jumped out to a lead they would never relinquish.
All four Hurricanes’ goals in the opening period came from the slot, right in front of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky faced 14 shots in the opening period, before being pulled prior to the start of the second. On the first three goals, the Hurricane goal scorer was uncovered in the high-quality scoring area directly in front of Bobrovsky. The defensive struggles were reminiscent of last season when they were 28th in the league in giving up goals.
In the first game playing against former goalie James Reimer, the 31-year-old and the Hurricanes came out victorious. Reimer played the past three seasons in Florida prior to being traded to Carolina in the offseason, so that the Panthers could clear space and salary to sign Bobrovsky. Reimer has accepted his new role with the Hurricanes and looked sharp in stopping 47 of 50 shots in winning his first game against his former team and his replacement in net.
Borgstrom Not Making an Impact
Henrik Borgstrom, who has centered the third line in the opening three games of the season, has yet to make an impact that many were hoping for. Last season, he scored 18 points in 50 games but has failed to register a point in three games. More importantly, his ice time has decreased each game, dropping over five minutes per game from nearly 16 minutes in the opener, down to under 11 minutes in Tuesday’s loss.
Following Tuesday’s loss to the undefeated Hurricanes, Quenneville had these comments during his post-game press conference.
“Some of those goals were self-inflicted. When you’re not ready to play, when you’re down one or two at home in the first period it’s gonna bother you the whole night.”
Quenneville’s response when asked about giving up four unanswered goals in the first period.
“That’s an excuse. The goals we gave up are definitely defendable and those are the kind of goals we can’t give up.”
The head coach’s response when discussing the team’s slow start against the Hurricanes and if the bad start was due to the players still getting used to his system. Quenneville was hired as the new Panthers head coach in the offseason to replace Bob Boughner, who was fired at the end of last season.
“It was an easy decision at that time.”
After the first period, Bobrovsky, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, was pulled and Sam Montembeault replaced him in goal. Quenneville opted to give Montembeault some action and perhaps change the flow of the game with the backup goaltender taking over in net.
“It’s always to me a turning point in the game if you don’t score. Something (power play) that wasn’t sharp and reflected what our first period was all about. We didn’t deserve to be ahead the way we started and the way we played that whole first period.”
Trailing 1-0 during the first period, the Panthers had that aforementioned five-on-three power play that it failed to convert and Quenneville felt it was an important point of the game. His team’s play after failing to score on the two-man advantage only gave the Hurricanes more confidence.
The Panthers return to action Friday night in Buffalo as they begin a three-game road trip. After playing the Sabres, they travel across the Empire State to face the New York Islanders on Oct. 12 before concluding the trip with an Oct. 14 afternoon faceoff at the New Jersey Devils. Their next home game is Oct. 19 against the Colorado Avalanche.
I have followed the NHL since the early 1980s, when offense was king. I lived in the midwest until 2013, when I relocated to south Florida.