Take a look at the NHL standings. Go ahead. Sure, Halloween hasn’t even hit, but there are the Florida Panthers sitting in first (tied with Edmonton, but still) after they beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 on Saturday night.
There will be no “October Champions” banner unfurled at FLA Live Arena or anything like that, but the Panthers are feeling pretty good about the way they have played — even if it wasn’t always perfect against a physical Flyers team playing on home ice on a Saturday night off Broad Street.
The Panthers may not have been perfect, or pretty, but they did play a complete game against a Philadelphia team that committed seven penalties and spent a good chunk of the night shorthanded.
Give the Flyers credit for how they neutralized the Florida power play, giving up a goal to Jonathan Huberdeau in the first period but nothing else as the Panthers went 1-for-7 with the man advantage.
The Flyers even got a shorthanded goal off a Florida power play chance — although Huberdeau got that back as well.
With the game tied at 2 in the third, Philadelphia went on its fourth and final power play of the night and it was Florida which got the go-ahead (and game-winning) goal.
Keith Yandle sent a cross-ice pass in which no one was home. The puck bounced off the wall, Sam Bennett intercepted it and took off.
Bennett and Huberdeau charged up the ice with Bennett tossing it to his linemate near the cage.
Carter Hart made a nice pad save on Huberdeau, but didn’t control the rebound. Huberdeau found it and put it home to give the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish.
“Our execution was off on the power play and we wanted it to happen,” Huberdeau said. “We gave a shorthanded goal, but we got it back and that was huge for us.”
Added Joel Quenneville: “Most guys are going to turn, come on back to the bench but he stuck with it and that was a pretty nifty play. That was a good pass originally on the play from Bennett and Huby was do. There he goes.”
The Flyers came out flying to start the game, Florida relying on Sergei Bobrovsky (27 saves, 4-0) to hold things done for a bit as it looked like the Panthers were going to try and just play a nice, safe road game.
Which they sort of ended up doing.
Florida took the initial lead for the fifth consecutive game on a nice wrist shot from Huberdeau on the Panthers’ second power play of the night.
In the second, Claude Giroux made it 1-1 on Philadelphia’s lone power play goal — and then came the shorty.
Sam Reinhart, who ended Philadelphia’s hopes with an empty net goal, gave up the puck at the top of the zone on a Florida power play chance and one guy no one wants to see on a shorthanded breakaway — Cam Atkinson — came up with it.
Atkinson charged in on his old Columbus teammate and slid the puck between Bobrovsky’s skates to make it a 2-1 game. It was Atkinson’s 17th career shorthanded goal and first with the Flyers.
The Panthers capped a very uneven second period by tying the score on a great saucer pass from MacKenzie Weegar to Owen Tippett charging to the goal.
Tippett slammed on the brakes as the puck headed his way and it clipped his skate and went past Hart with 26.6 seconds left.
”I think that shows we have a lot of fight in us,” Tippett said. “We’re ready for any adversity that comes at us throughout a game.When you look att the clock right there, there’s still a lot of time left and it’s a one-goal game. Take it one shift at a time, work hard.”
The third belonged to the Panthers as the game got chippy.
Huberdeau got his second of the night off the Philadelphia turnover on the power play, then ended it on the empty netter from Reinhart.
Now, they come home to face Arizona in hockey’s version of the Battle of South Florida.
The Coyotes feature two former Jr. Panthers in Jakob Chychrun and Shayne Gostisbehere on defense.
If Chase Priskie were to make his NHL debut in his home rink for his hometown team that night, well, whoa.
That’s a story for another day.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
ARIZONA COYOTES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Monday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WQAM 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play