The Florida Panthers did look a lot like the high-flying offensive team the NHL has come to know this season on Thursday night.
Yet when it came right down to it, the only goals Florida scored in its 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators came from a place the Panthers know they need to be: Down in front.
It helped the Panthers snap a three-game skid — the longest home losing streak of the season.
“It felt great. If you want to be one of the top teams in the league you can’t lose three in a row at home,’’ Patric Hornqvist said. “We put that behind us.”
Florida outshot the Senators 48-18 in the game and had a lot of great looks at goalie Anton Forsberg as he did everything he could to keep the Panthers from getting their elusive 10-goal night.
Shots from the outside were stopped as were the ones from the slot.
Florida took 32 shots from the slot on Thursday night and had 20 high-danger chances but ended up with just three goals against Forsberg.
All three of Florida’s goals came from in front of Forsberg — well, Mason Marchment’s came from behind the Ottawa goalie.
The Panthers played a very tight defensive game and the goals they scored looked like ones coming from a very good defensive team and not one loaded up with offensive heavies.
Florida knows it is not going to be able to free-flow its way around the ice when the playoffs come so games like Thursday can be helpful down the road.
Even if the Panthers were in control of the puck the entire night.
To put it another way, the Panthers were not going to let a red-hot goalie beat them on Thursday.
“Tonight was our best 60-minute effort in a long time,” said Hornqvist, who scored Florida’s second goal of the night by jamming a loose puck in between the skates of the Ottawa goalie early in the third.
“We did not give them much. The scoring chances they got were on our power play. We want to make plays and there were small errors … it was a great team effort. It’s hockey and anything can happen.”
Florida not only dominated the shot clock but possession time as well. With nine power-play chances, well, they should have.
The Panthers appeared to spend the entirety of the night in the Ottawa zone but, as Hornqvist said, did not get frustrated when their many shots were not going in.
“I think the fortitude and resiliency was really good for us,” Andrew Brunette said. “It wasn’t coming easy for us. We had so many different looks where pucks had been going in during the past that haven’t been going in lately.
“We stayed within the game plan, within the structure of how we want to play. We did not deviate or cheat to make it better. The grit we showed to stay in the battle helped it turn. I’m proud of that part of our game.”
Florida opened the scoring in the first period after Anton Lundell was bloodied by a high stick giving the Panthers a four-minute power play chance.
Marchment scored with two seconds left in the first of the two minor penalties as he and Forsberg appeared to simultaneously push the puck in with their skates.
Ottawa coach D.J. Smith called foul, challenging Forsberg was interfered with. Officials ruled Marchment was rammed into the goalie by a defender.
So, the Panthers now had a 5-on-3 for two minutes. This is where the power play troubles started as Ottawa held the Panthers down as Florida ended up 2-for-9 on the power play.
The two goals came from the second unit: Marchment and Hornqvist.
Florida’s big names, save for Sam Bennett, were held off the scoresheet despite all of their time in the zone and their shots at Forsberg. Of Florida’s 48 shots on goal, 22 were taken by Aaron Ekblad, Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov.
Huberdeau’s 10-game scoring streak came to an end as well.
”Heading into the playoffs, the time we’re in right now, those are big goals,” Brandon Montour said. “Those are the goals we need to score from here on out. Teams see how we play and they are going to be tough on us, tighten it up and not let those chances go on through. We’re going to get everyone’s best and those are the goals we are going to be scoring.”
Despite dominating all facets of the game, Marchment’s first-period goal was all that was scored through the first 40 minutes of play.
In the opening two periods, the Panthers had an expected-Goals For rate of 5.26 — and ended with that number closer to seven.
Yet Florida and Sergei Bobrovsky (second shutout of the season) did not get some breathing room until Hornqvist scored with five seconds left on Florida’s seventh power-play chance at 3:09 of the third.
Ryan Lomberg then made it 3-0 by getting in the doorstep and sweeping in a Frank Vatrano shot 22 seconds later.
“Their goalie played a really good game but we didn’t get frustrated,” Lomberg said. “We knew if we stuck to our gameplan, we were getting enough chances that they would fall to us.”
The game, which showed signs of chippiness early on, really amped up once the Panthers had taken control of the scoreboard as they had everything else in this game.
There were a number of scrums breaking out on the ice as the third period wore on with Lomberg getting into it with former Florida defenseman Josh Brown at center ice after Brown dropped Lomberg with a big hit.
Lomberg skated off the ice waving his hands in the air to get the announced crowd of 16,499 going — while waving to them Hanson Brothers style as he made his way to the bench.
”It was great seeing everyone stand up for one another and have each others’ backs,” Lomberg said. “I am proud of all the guys.”