Florida Panthers GameDay
Drought Buster: Florida Panthers 3, Detroit Red Wings 2
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After struggling to find his groove all season, Aaron Ekblad willed the Florida Panthers to a win over the host Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
Florida’s star defenseman ended an 18-game goal drought with a two-goal performance in a 3-2 win against the team he grew up cheering for.
Ekblad broke a 1-1 tie with his second power play goal — his first since Oct. 15 — and sealed the deal near the midway point of the third period.
Both goals came off feeds from Sasha Barkov.
”I can’t really take much credit for either of them,” Ekblad said “[Barkov] got it done.”
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That was not the only Panthers drought that was ended on Friday night.
With the win, Florida secured its second consecutive win for the first time since beating Seattle and Vancouver to start the month of December.
This was just their fourth instance of back-to-back wins of the season with none of the prior instances resulting in a third-straight win.
In a season where the Panthers have been dealing with countless injuries and an illness that took over the locker room, this road trip presents one of the team’s first opportunity to find a rhythm while healthy.
And they will need to do so as they find themselves six points out of a playoff spot as the halfway point approaches.
Sergei Bobrovsky helped the Panthers close the game out with 29 saves on 31 shots.
”We are both kind of fighting for our playoff lives in January,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
”They were coming at us hard early and then there was such a calm on the bench. Sometimes a goaltender can just settle your game down.”
THE GOALS OF THE GAME
- Red Wings 1, Panthers 0 (1:04, 1st): Jonatan Berggren tipped a Ben Chiarot shot past Sergei Bobrovsky on the game’s first shot on goal.
- Panthers 1, Red Wings 1 (2:33, 1st): Gus Forsling answered with a slap shot from above the slot to score on Florida’s first shot on net.
- Panthers 2, Red Wings 1 (6:28 ,2nd, PPG): Aaron Ekblad broke an 18-game scoring drought with a snap shot from the slot off of a feed from Sasha Barkov.
- Panthers 3, Red Wings 1 (8:11, 3rd, PPG): Ekblad crashed the net and potted home a feed from Barkov for his second goal of the night.
- Panthers 3, Red Wings 2 (16:17, 3rd): Robby Fabbri struck with a wide-open shot with the extra-attacker out for Detroit with the net empty.
FOURTH LINE SETS THE TONE
The Panthers found themselves in a hole just over a minute into the game and their fourth line delivered on their first shift on the ice.
Givani Smith threw a puck toward the net and Eric Staal picked it up and found Forsling with a feed to set up the goal that tied the game on Florida’s first shot of the night.
That line kept the energy going as the game went on. Smith played a big part of that in his first game against his former team, laying three hits in the first two periods.
BIG BOB COMES THROUGH
After giving up a goal on the game’s first shot, Sergei Bobrovsky settled into the game quickly.
He stopped the next 17 shots he faced on 10 high-danger chances to help the Panthers keep a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission. He did not slow down in the third, either.
Just 49 seconds into the third, he made a huge glove save on a Dylan Larkin shot from in close to keep the lead intact.
He made 27 consecutive saves until Fabbri struck with a wide-open shot after Detroit pulled their goalie.
SHOWED OUT ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Panthers came into the game struggling on both the power play and the penalty kill and they came through on both ends of the spectrum.
Ekblad ended a personal drought of his and a 1-for-13 stretch for the Panthers with two goals on two power play opportunities. Then the penalty kill went out and killed all four of Detroit’s power play chances to help seal the game.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Aaron Ekblad, Florida (2 goals)
2. Sasha Barkov, Florida (2 assists)
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (29 saves)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT DALLAS STARS
- When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
- Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- This season (Stars lead 1-0): Dallas 6, Florida 4 (Nov. 10)
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 24-20-2, 3 tie
- Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
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I let out an audible groan as Bobrovsky watched the game’s 1st shot blast past him barely a minute in, but shock and awe ensued slowly thereafter as shades of Double-Vezina Bob got dialed-in and ripped a few spectacular saves on the way to a nail-biting but feel-good finish. BUT, if we’re unable to dominate in Dallas and string 3 for the 1st time this season…(you fill in the last line….)
Oops, sorry, Dallas game in Sunrise…it should help