In his previous two starts, Sergei Bobrovsky had the opportunity to pick up his first shutout since his first season with the Florida Panthers only to see them disappear early in the third period.
Bobrovsky was not giving anything up Thursday night in Edmonton.
Bobrovsky was flat out fantastic against the Oilers, stopping all 40 shots he faced in Florida’s 6-0 win at Rogers Place.
It was Bobrovsky’s first shutout since stopping 22 against Detroit way back on Nov. 2, 2019.
That came in his 12th game with the Panthers.
It took him 87 games to get another.
Make no mistake: ‘Big Game Bob’ was back on Thursday night.
“We came out a little slow but Bob was dialed in from the start and he made huge saves for us all night long,’’ said Carter Verhaeghe, who made it a 2-0 game in the second.
“He kept us in the game and we finally got our feet under us and started to play a little better. … He was the best player on the ice, by far. He made some unbelievable saves. … The game could have gone a lot different.”
Coach Andrew Brunette could only chuckle when recalling that opening period.
“Bob definitely gave us the chance to find our legs,’’ he said, “and we are very grateful for that because they barnstormed us there early.”
Bobrovsky was locked in from the get — and he had to be.
Edmonton, which had lost 12 of 14 coming in, looked every bit the desperate team Florida was warned it would be.
Florida was dominated on both ends of the ice for much of the first period but it was scoreless after 1.
The Panthers survived the best the Oilers had to offer.
”I thought the opponent came with the strong start,’’ Bobrovsky said. “They were pretty fast and are a good team. But when we’re together, the guys had timely blocked shots and helped a lot in the d-zone. It was a great six-person effort in the first and all game long. It was definitely fun to be part of it.”
Bobrovsky was sort of nonchalant about the shutout that night against Detroit and, well, he had reason to.
The Red Wings were basically an AHL team that night and those 22 shots did not offer much of a challenge.
”Defensively, they kept the puck to the outside and made my job easy,” Bobrovsky said that night. “All the ingredients were there for us.”
Bobrovsky never could have imagined it would take this long to get another shutout.
Not after he got nine in his final season with Columbus before signing with the Panthers.
Last week, he had one going into the third against Dallas but the Stars scored in the opening minute.
Saturday, Columbus got him early in the third as well.
Thursday? No chance.
”Of course,” Bobrovsky said when asked about feeling good about a shutout, No. 35 by the way.
“But it’s more important for the game, the element, being the focus. Do the right things and the results will come. I am definitely happy with the result, happy with the shutout.”
Brunette was obviously not happy with Florida’s start but the team woke up and got rolling.
“I did not like our start at all,” Brunette said. “We knew we were coming into a desperate situation and hand it to them; they played really well in that first period. We weren’t sharp, but it was more of what they were doing.”
Sasha Barkov scored Florida’s first on a nice pass from Sam Reinhart on the power play at 5:28 of the second with Verhaeghe making it 2-0 on the team’s next shot.
Barkov got his second with 12:47 left to all but end it.
The Panthers kept coming, scoring three more: Anthony Duclair, Sam Bennett and Owen Tippett also scored in the final five minutes of the game.
Now, the roadie moves to Vancouver where the Canucks will be without a top forward and their starting goalie due to Covid.
SWAGGY LOVES EDMONTON
The last time Verhaeghe was in Rogers Place, he and the Tampa Bay Lightning were taking care of the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup bubble.
Verhaeghe ended up signing with the Panthers as a free agent a few weeks later.
“Yeah, the last time I was here I really enjoyed it,” Verhaeghe said. “Some good memories here. At the hotel, too. I enjoyed (Thursday) as well.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
2. Sasha Barkov, Florida
3. Sam Reinhart, Florida