Before the Florida Panthers played in Anaheim on Sunday night, coach Paul Maurice discussed how his team was going to have to find a way with leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk being suspended for two games.
As has been the case so far this season, the Panthers found themselves in a battle with the host Ducks — but one they ended up surviving.
Thanks to a pair of deflected goals as well as ones from Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett, the Panthers ended up with a split in their four-game road trip as they beat Anaheim 5-3.
Reinhart’s goal drought has been well documented — but No. 13 got his first in Florida’s 13th game.
And, on his 27th birthday.
“We had a good first and a good third,” Reinhart said afterward. “We salvaged the road trip a little bit and now we get to come home. Everyone stepped up in their own little way.”
Sunday night’s game followed a similar script as many of Florida’s games thus far as it built a two-goal lead and held a big shot advantage before Anaheim battled back and ended up tying the score with a pair of goals within a 27 second span in the second period.
Florida did not relent in its attack on John Gibson with Reinhart getting his first of the season at 2:55 of the third after he corralled a loose puck in front of the net and sent it high over a sprawling Gibson.
About five minutes later and it was Bennett claiming his second of the season as he slid in front of the net and cashed in on a nice feed from Eetu Luostarinen.
After that, it was up to Spencer Knight to handle things — and that he did.
Knight improved to 4-1 by making 32 saves in the win.
The Panthers are going to be without Tkachuk through Wednesday’s game against Carolina and will need balanced scoring in his absence.
They got that Sunday night — although Brandon Montour was a big part of it early.
Montour got credit for one goal Sunday even though his two big shots were clipped on the way to the net by his teammates.
At 11:31 of the first, Montour sent a low power play shot toward the net that Carter Verhaeghe got a piece of to make it 1-0.
In the second, Montour threw up a wild shot from 50 feet out that appeared to nip Aleksi Heponiemi to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Although Montour was originally credited with both goals, they were later changed by off-ice officials in Anaheim.
Montour ended up having the second one reinstated — although that could change upon further review.’
”That was a gutsy effort, it’s hard coming on a back-to-back,” Bennett said. “I thought we played a pretty solid game and it was a pretty good win for our team.”
Anaheim did not go quietly into the Southern California night, however, with Ryan Strome’s long shot deflected by Adam Henrique and past Knight.
A mere 27 seconds later and it was a tie game — and a goal Strome got to claim as his own.
”We started good and the second period was harder on us,” Anton Lundell said.
Once up two goals in the third, the Panthers did not face many challenges from the Ducks and even got a late power play chance with Gibson out of the net.
Only Isac Lundestrom chased down a Florida turnover and was slashed by Gus Forsling to draw a penalty shot that he scored on to make it a one-goal game.
The Panthers were able to continue on their power play in the final minute before Anaheim finally got the puck back allowing Gibson to come out and get the extra skater on the ice.
Reinhart ended it by chasing down a loose puck and depositing it into the vacated net in the game’s final second to give the Panthers a two-goal victory.
It looked like a fun game for the Panthers as the loss of Tkachuk and the continued absence of Patric Hornqvist created new opportunity for new players.
Ryan Lomberg, for one, got to move all the way up to the second line to play with Reinhart and Anton Lundell.
It appears the success Lundell and Reinhart found last season is something coach Paul Maurice notices.
“What a great learning experience for our team to find something new,” Maurice said. “Luostarinen and Bennett were really good, so that’s a place we could go. Lomberg comes off the fourth line and I liked his game.
“So, I learned something I didn’t know before this game. And Lundell and Reinhart, that’s a pair I should work hard to keep. They are really good together. I have a whole different set of lines when Matthew comes back.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Brandon Montour, Florida (goal, three assists; 25:15 ice time)
2. Sam Reinhart, Florida (two goals)
3. Ryan Strome, Anaheim (goal, assist)
PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- 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: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 69-45-10, 11 ties