Coming into Thursday night, the Florida Panthers certainly could not afford to give the red-hot Detroit power play five chances and expect to win.
Not with their penalty kill tied for last place in the NHL and Detroit’s power play ranked No. 4.
Only, thanks in big part to the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers righted their ship.
Both teams ended up going 0-for-5 on the power play Thursday but that was big for the Panthers as Bobrovsky stopped all 22 shots he faced in a 2-0 win at Little Caesars Arena.
Seven of the 22 shots came with the Wings holding the man advantage.
The shutout was Bobrovsky’s 39th in his career and came in his 650th game.
“Bobby stood on his head,” Steven Lorentz said. “That is a team with a lot of offensive firepower, so it was great to see guys laying out and blocking shots, but at the same time, he was as solid as a rock back there.”
The Panthers needed Bobrovsky to be sharp.
After a quiet first period, both teams traded penalties in the second period.
Florida found itself on the penalty kill three times and Bobrovsky came through with big saves when he was called on.
His biggest save of the night came on the second power play of the period for Detroit.
David Perron came streaking down the slot with a tired group of Panthers penalty killers on the ice and sent a streaker of a wrist shot to Bobrovsky’s glove side.
He came up with the save and covered the puck up to help get a fresh group on the ice.
Alex DeBrincat also tested him on the third Red Wings power play of the second period, pulling off a between-the-legs shot while 1-on-1 with Bobrovsky.
Only Bobrovsky came up with the pad save to keep the game scoreless.
“Your best penalty killer is your goalie and Bob was unbelievable today,” Dmitry Kulikov said.
“He made some big saves for us.”
Lorentz finally broke the ice with 55 seconds to go in the second period, firing a shot that bounced off James Reimer’s glove, off the cross-bar and eventually into the net to give the Panthers the lead.
It was his first goal as a Panther since getting traded to Florida on July 1 for Anthony Duclair.
“Any time you can get a goal in the first or the last minute of a period, it’s a back breaker for the other team,” Lorentz said.
“I was trying to shoot it hard on net and I was fortunate enough to get a bounce. Hopefully those bounces are coming our way a little bit more.”
That goal made the difference as both teams settled in for a grind of a third period.
Each team was only able to get seven shots off as the Panthers settled into a chippy defensive style of game.
Bobrovsky stopped all seven he faced against a Red Wings team that has the most third-period goals (13) in the league.
With star defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour out with injuries, it was no easy feat.
“We have learned how to battle, grind, keep games tight and not give as much up,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“We are a pretty good defensive team right now with a lot of new faces in our lineup, so we’re pretty pleased with where we’re at.”
Anton Lundell sealed the deal with 1:12 to go with an empty-net goal.
Bobrovsky secured the 39th shutout of his career, which is good for fourth among active goaltenders.
He was briefly tied with New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov for third until he secured a shutout of his own on Thursday in Washington.
“You don’t think too much about career or personal achievements,” Bobrovsky said.
“I think we are all focused on the standings now and [the Red Wings] are ahead of us, so we have to catch them.”
With the win, the Panthers sit in a playoff spot for the first time this season at 5-3-1.
They have picked up seven of eight possible points in a four-game point streak dating back to their win over the San Jose Sharks last Tuesday.
Florida will have a chance to build on that with five of its next six games coming against teams that missed the playoffs last season.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
- When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Where: United Center, Chicago
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- Last Season: Tied 1-1
- This season: @Chicago, Saturday; @Florida, Sunday Nov. 12
- All-time regular season series: Blackhawks lead 28-18-4, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday vs. Columbus, 7 p.m.