The Florida Panthers were five seconds away from starting their five-game roadtrip off in high fashion.
Five seconds away from a win in Edmonton.
They never got to four.
Evan Bouchard scored with 4.4 seconds left in regulation, one-timing a pretty pass from Connor McDavid past Spencer Knight to force an overtime which, predictably, did not last very long.
On Edmonton’s first offensive possession, McDavid threaded a pass to Leon Draisaitl on a 2-on-1, the goal coming 22 seconds into OT to hand the Panthers a tough 4-3 loss.
Florida went from getting a much-needed win to losing in just over 26 seconds of game time.
This comes on the heels of the Panthers’ coughing up a 4-1 third-period lead and losing to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
“They have two dynamic players who are a lot to handle,’’ Paul Maurice lamented. “That’s tough, with five seconds on the clock. … The fight was there, we know we can be better.’’
Had the Panthers ended up winning this game, they would have felt fortunate to do so.
For most of the night, Edmonton was the better team.
The win was deserved.
As painful as it was for the Panthers, they were lucky to get a point.
Had it not been for some serious goaltending heroics from Knight, they would not have even ended up with that.
Knight was spectacular throughout the night — and the Panthers needed him to be.
”He’s unreal. He is a gamer,” said Aaron Ekblad, who was in the middle of the McDavid/Draisaitl rush in overtime. “He wants it every single night, just as bad as everyone else in here.”
Florida now limps into Calgary with losses in two consecutive games and six of its past eight.
All eyes will be on Matthew Tkachuk, Enemy No. 1 in Edmonton and now in Calgary as well, but the Panthers simply need a win before this thing starts to get out of hand.
The Panthers are now 0-1-2 with captain Sasha Barkov out of the lineup.
“Get Barkov back, that will help,’’ Maurice said when asked what his team needed to do to get to another level.
The Panthers knew this was not going to be the easiest of road trips, not flying almost six hours the day before having to play a back-to-back against two teams which they had already lost to on the comforts of home ice.
And, even though both teams flew across North America over the past couple of days, it was the Edmonton Oilers who looked fresh as a daisy.
The Panthers, save for an early goal from Tkachuk down low to make it 1-0, failed to get much of anything going as they were bottled up by the Oilers.
Edmonton dictated the flow of play from the second half of the first period until the final horn, holding Florida out of the offensive zone.
The Oilers appeared to tie the score in the second but former Panthers’ prospect Zach Hyman was called for kicking the puck into the net.
Not long after, however, McDavid tied it at 1 on a power play breakaway in which the Panthers were bunched up in the offensive zone and Marc Staal was coming off on a line change.
The Oilers, which rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the host Rangers on Saturday, made it 2-1 early in the third when Tyson Barrie got his third of the season against the Panthers. He scored twice in their 5-3 win in Sunrise earlier this month.
Florida, despite doing a whole lot of nothing, then sort of took control of things.
A pretty tic-tac-toe sequence from Eetu Luostartinen to Sam Reinhart to Anton Lundell tied the score with 9:01 left. Florida took the lead on Brandon Montour’s power play goal with 4:44 left.
Edmonton challenged that Tkachuk had played the puck with a high stick before Ekblad fed Montour in the slot, but the call on the ice stood and the Florida power play came back out with a chance to put the finishing touches on this one.
The Panthers could get no more, however, and Knight was forced to make one terrific save after another — including one on Jesse Puljujarvi with 14.4 seconds remaining — to keep the lead.
With 4.4 left, however, he could not stop the one-timer from a wide-open Bouchard.
”I thought we played pretty good, had two of the best players in the world going against us,” said Lundell, who now has goals in his past three games after a 13-game drought. “We played a lot better than (Saturday) and it was two good teams, was real close.”
The Panthers will be in Calgary on Tuesday night and the Saddledome will not be a welcoming place.
Not only will this mark the return of Tkachuk after he asked out of Calgary and ended up being traded to Florida — heck of a start with 10 goals and 29 points in his first 20 games — but the Flames have lost three straight themselves.
Both teams need this one.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton (goal, game-winning and tying assists)
2. Evan Bouchard, Edmonton (game-tying goal)
3. Spencer Knight, Florida (36 saves)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT CALGARY FLAMES
- When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
- Where: The Saddledome; Calgary, Alberta
- TV: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Calgary leads 1-0): Flames 5, Panthers 4 SO (Nov. 19)
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Calgary leads 23-11-3, 3 ties