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Florida Panthers GameDay

Vegas Fat Cats: Florida Panthers 5, Arizona Coyotes 3

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Joe Thornton scored his first goal as a member of the Panthers on Monday night as Florida stayed unbeaten at 6-0 by beating the visiting Arizona Coyotes at FLA Live Arena. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The Florida Panthers may have been favored more to win a single hockey game than they were Monday against the visiting Arizona Coyotes. Problem is, no one can figure out when that would have been.

The Panthers were unbeaten coming into Monday’s tilt with the winless Coyotes — and Vegas took notice.

Florida came into the game a minus-410 favorite, meaning it took a $410 bet to win $100.

Turns out, the Panthers were a pretty safe bet.

When has that ever been said?

Florida won those heady bettors at least a little money Monday as they eased to their sixth consecutive victory with a 5-3 win over an outmatched Arizona squad that showed some fight at the end.

Arizona, which got beat 8-2 in its season opener in Columbus, remains winless at 0-5-1 but didn’t give up Monday night despite being down three and dominated throughout the night.

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Monday was a night in which the Panthers looked completely in control even if they didn’t score as much as they could have.

Florida held the puck possession so long in the first two periods that it didn’t appear that Arizona set up save for a single power play in the second.

Arizona was also held to just one shot on goal — it was a goal, but still — for almost the entirety of the opening half of the game.

This game was not much of a contest until the score got a little uncomfortable for the Panthers after Arizona got goals from Liam O’Brien and Phil Kessel within a span of 34 seconds in the third to make it a 4-3 game.

Still, Florida’s possession metrics were through the roof, and that’s just in 5-on-5 and not counting a power play that went 2-for-3 in the first 40 minutes.

The Panthers went into the third holding a 3-1 lead and a 31-8 shot advantage. Take away the power plays and Florida outshot the Coyotes 23-5 in the first two periods.

Shot attempts were out of control: In the opening two periods, Florida took aim at one of the two Arizona goalies 56 times. The Coyotes had just 16 shot attempts.

As hard as this may to be believe, the Coyotes actually led in the game after Clayton Keller picked off a turnover in the Florida zone, drove in on Spencer Knight and scored with 2:17 left in the first period.

That was Arizona’s first shot on goal. The Coyotes did not get another until midway through the second.

And, as anyone watching could have guessed, Arizona’s lead was not going to stand for long.

Florida got its first power play with 1:38 left in the period and with just 18.8 seconds remaining, Joe Thornton got his first goal with his new team by knocking in a rebound from Sam Reinhart.

In the second, Frank Vatrano got in on the action and gave the Panthers the lead six minutes in off a loose puck.

Aaron Ekblad made it 3-1 on a long shot from the slot which bounced off Arizona defenseman — and South Florida guy — Jakob Chychrun on its way past goalie Karel Vejmelka.

Florida broke things open (or so they thought) in the third when Sam Bennett and Jonathan Huberdeau strolled through the Arizona zone alternating passes, their game of tic-tac-toe ending on a Huberdeau tap-in at 6:54.

Arizona, still an NHL team by the way, made it a contest late in the third with goals from O’Brien (quick snapshot) and Kessel (driving fake of Knight) in the closing minutes of the third.

With 38.9 seconds left, Anthony Duclair ended Arizona’s fleeting upset hopes with an empty net goal.

GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1. Joe Thornton, Florida

2. Frank Vatrano, Florida

3. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

BOSTON BRUINS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS 

  • WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TICKETS: CLICK HERE
  • TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
  • RADIO: WQAM 560-AM
  • 2021 regular season series: Did not play

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