SUNRISE — A few days ago, the Detroit Red Wings were doing a lot of good things in their game against the Florida Panthers.
Then, very quickly, the damn broke and it made no difference what this overwhelmed team did.
Thursday night had the same vibes. And, the same result.
The Wings, coming off a big win in Tampa on Tuesday, took a 1-0 lead and were outshooting and out-chancing the Panthers, doing everything they could to hold off what felt like the inevitable.
Yeah, that damn broke again.
The Panthers, aiming to clinch not only the Atlantic Division title but the top seed in the Eastern Conference, scored three goals on five shots in a span of 11 minutes in the first period Thursday, taking control of their game with Detroit en route to a 5-2 blowout at FLA Live Arena.
Florida will not know whether it clinched the division or top spot in the conference until Thursday’s game between the Leafs and Lightning is complete.
If Toronto does not win, the Panthers get their prizes.
At the end of the Florida game, Tampa Bay held a 3-0 lead in the second period.
What the Panthers do know is they tied a franchise record with their 12th consecutive win; the last Florida team to win 12 straight was the last Panthers’ team to win the Atlantic Division in 2015-16.
The Wings took the surprising first lead when Sam Gagne — who started skating in Coral Springs when has father Dave played for the Panthers — beat Sergei Bobrovsky on a soft wrist shot 4:08 into the game.
By the time Noel Acciari scored off a nice backwall pass from Brandon Montour at 9:19 to tie it, the Panthers were being outshot 5-2.
It was not exactly a masterpiece of a game.
The Panthers took the lead for good with 1:07 left in the period when Sasha Barkov fired off another sharp wrister on a power play chance; Mason Marchment gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead with 21 seconds remaining when he lost control of the puck while charging in on Alex Nedeljkovic.
The hard-luck goalie (who beat up on the Panthers quite a bit with the Hurricanes last season BTW) lost sight of the puck and it slipped through.
The Wings got back into the game in the second, Tyler Bertuzzi scoring to cut the deficit to a goal.
Only Florida got its lead back with 3:55 left in the period when MacKenzie Weegar crashed the net and hammered a pass from Marchment.
The game got a little chippy as things went on, especially after Michael Rasmussen collided with Boborvsky behind the net; that brought in Radko Gudas.
Early in the third, Detroit’s Oskar Sundqvist got a 5/10 misconduct for chopping at Lucas Carlsson as he was attempting a slap shot just inside the blue line.
Giving the Panthers a five-minute power play is never a good idea — and Sam Reinhart made it 5-2 by pushing the puck up-and-over Nedeljkovic while camped out in front of the net.
— Jonathan Huberdeau, in a race to be the NHL’s top scorer this season, picked up two more points off assists and now has 113.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sasha Barkov, Florida
2. Mason Marchment, Florida
3. MacKenzie Weegar, Florida
PANTHERS ON DECK
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Toronto leads 45-34-6, 7 ties
- Season series — Tied 1-1: @Toronto 5, Florida 2 (March 27); @Florida 7, Toronto 6; OT (April 5)