The Florida Panthers earned their 2nd win in as many games to start the season Tuesday night as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in an Overtime game. The winless Blackhawks dropped to 0-3-1 as they finish out the Florida swing to start the year winless.
The Florida Panthers drew first blood with 6:36 left in the first as Aleksander Barkov sauced a pass to Carter Verehaege. The speedy former Bolt found himself on a partial breakaway against Kevin Lankinen, who was making his first career start in net as Verehaege went to his backhand beating Lankinen under his arm for his first goal as a Panther.
After a Dylan Strome tripping penalty, the Panthers added to their lead quickly on the powerplay as a Keith Yandle shot was saved by Lankinen. Lankinen fumbled the rebound and the screening Panther-Patric Hornqvist, buried the puck for his second goal as a Panther.
A skinny interference call on Panthers captain Barkov led to the Blackhawks getting a powerplay. Starting his first game of the season, Sergei Bobrovsky allowed a juicy rebound off a shot by Dominik Kubalik directly to former Panther Lucas Wallmark. Wallmark found the 25 year old Czech who scored 30 goals in his rookie season last year who beat Bobrovsky on a second shot. Bobrovsky bobbled the puck in his glove. Bobrovsky’s glove was a cause for concern last year and will continue to be so throughout the night.
The Panthers added to their lead quickly as a 2 on 1 led by Anthony Duclair was initially saved by Lankinen. However a defensive meltdown left Carter Verehaege alone with the puck in front of an empty net and Verehaege scored his second of the night to make it 3-1.
Kubalik became the second of three players to put up a multi-goal performance with a one timer on the powerplay off the faceoff to make it 3 to 2. Hurtling at around at least 100 mph, the shot had no chance to be stopped.
A Patrick Kane breakaway was negated by Mackenzie Weegar, but Weegar unfortunately got called for hooking which led to the rare penalty shot. Kane, who is the best American player to ever play in the NHL faced down Bobrovsky. Kane blinked first as Bobrovsky robbed Kane on the penalty shot with a pad save to keep it 3 to 2.
Kane would quickly get his revenge as he beat Defenseman Riley Stillman and scored a highlight reel backhanded goal above Bobrovsky’s glove only five minutes later to tie the game heading into the intermission.
Blackhawks F Philipp Kurashev scored his first career goal off a wrister that should have been saved by Bobrovsky. However, a mishap with Bob’s glove as he failed to completely catch the puck gave the Swiss born Kurashev his first career goal.
The Panthers struck back quickly as Patric Hornqvist became the third of three players to score two goals in the night with a deflection off a Keith Yandle point shot to tie the game a minute later.
The Blackhawks laid siege to the Panthers late in the third but Bobrovsky and the defense bounced back as the Panthers forced the game to overtime.
The Panthers controlled the puck for most of the overtime frame. The breakthrough moment came when Aleksander Barkov fired a perfect cross ice pass to Vatrano who one timed the puck into the net past Lankinen for the game winner.
That was an ugly win but a win is a win. The game shouldn’t have been that close. Sergei Bobrovsky has become a concern. There was hope that an improved defense would help but Bob still had the same issues as last season. His glove is a glaring weakness. The Kurashev goal should have been stopped. The Kane highlight reel goal could also have been prevented if Bob kept his glove up rather than shrug his shoulder. Bob also struggled with rebound control, which makes life a lot more difficult on himself. We saw that be a direct result on the first goal.
The Panthers defense wasn’t great, but it wasn’t last year bad. Riley Stillman had a terrible game coming in for Gustav Forsling. Stillman accidentally redirected Kubalik’s shot that made it’s way past Bob for Chicago’s first goal. His bad night culminated in him being worked by Patrick Kane when Kane scored the highlight reel goal. Comparing Stillman’s coverage of Kane to that of Mackenzie Weegar on the same player is night and day. Sure Weegar caused a penalty shot for Kane, but that was because he had no other choice. Kane almost had a break in the third period but Weegar’s coverage forced Kane to stay on the wing, not allowing him to drive to the front of the net.
Carter Verehaege is good and the Panthers need to protect him in the expansion draft. Duclair and Tippett need to bury their chances.
Jonathan Huberdeau was invisible which is problematic for your best player. I think Joel Quenneville should swap Huberdeau with Anthony Duclair on the top line, because of the ridiculous chemistry Huberdeau and Barkov have. Duclair would also help the second line as Wennberg and Hornqvist are both more defensive minded forwards and having an offensive speedy sniper would help a lot.
If the Panthers were playing a better team they would’ve lost plain and simple. The Panthers need to limit their mistakes. However, it is clear that this team is very different. The team plays a lot harder and they don’t give up. When they went down the other night and when Chicago tied it Sunday night, they immediately turned the tide. If this team plays to their full potential, they can be lethal, but they need to stop beating themselves. If they allow leads to slip against a team like Tampa, it’s game over.
My third star of the game goes to Mackenzie Weegar. Weegar played the second most ice time on the Panthers at 24:30, had one assist and was a +1. Weegar was key in jumpstarting the game winning rush and played a crucial defensive role that helped the Panthers hold on in the third period.
My second star of the game goes to Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik scored two goals having the fourth least amount of ice time among Blackhawk forwards, even though he’s easily their third best forward. I have no idea why Jeremy Collitton’s ice time management is so bad. Collitton even admitted as much on Sunday night.
My first star of the game goes to Carter Verehaege. The reason Verehaege gets a star over Hornqvist is because his goals were prettier.
The winless Blackhawks return home to take on the Detroit Red Wings (2-2-0) for their home opener tomorrow night. They also play the Wings on Sunday.
The Panthers were supposed to travel to Raleigh to play the Carolina Hurricanes (2-1-0) tonight and Saturday afternoon, but a Covid outbreak on the Hurricanes roster led to the games being postponed. This means four of the Panthers first six games have been impacted by the virus through no fault of their own. This will hurt the Panthers as they will be forced to play 54 games in 103 days after only playing two games during the first thirteen days of the season. The NHL will likely add an additional week to the season. The Panthers will practice and visit the Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2-1) next Tuesday at 7:00pm. This is a homecoming of sorts as Panthers C Alex Wennberg returns to play his old team, GM Bill Zito returns to the city where he was an assistant GM for so long, G Sergei Bobrovsky plays the team he won two Veznia trophies with and D Markus Nutivaara looks to make his Panther debut on the ice of his old team. Other Panther players that have suited up for the Blue Jackets over the years include Anthony Duclair and Anton Stralman.
The Panthers sent G Sam Montembeault to Syracuse (AHL) to get some playing time. With the Charlotte Checkers foregoing this season, the Panthers will share the Syracuse Crunch with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Montembeault should be the starting netminder in Syracuse.
The Panthers also put D Riley Stillman on the taxi squad. It is expected that D Markus Nutivaara will slide in after recovering from COVID-19. D Gustav Forsling and D Noah Juulsen could also see ice time.