After starting the season without a goal in two games (on seven trips) to the power play, the Florida Panthers have found a groove with the man advantage.
Scoring a power play goal in each of their next four games, the Panthers rank 12th in the NHL in that span.
“It’s all about momentum and timely goals,” Aaron Ekblad said. “Obviously, if we’re scoring goals in timely situations that’s great, but we haven’t in the first few and we just want to get better and better every day.”
On Monday, the Panthers scored twice on the power play in a 5-3 win over the visiting Arizona Coyotes.
The first of which was a Joe Thornton goal off of a rebound to tie the game with just 18.8 seconds left in the first period.
“Those are just worker goals,” Thornton said. “That’s where goals are scored these days and our guys are willing to go there and it pays dividends.”
The underrated part of this goal is the positioning and IQ showcased by each of the players throughout the play.
Off the faceoff, Thornton slipped from his original position off the right point and lurked into a position up front.
Meanwhile, Owen Tippett shifted to cover the right point while Brandon Montour cycled over near Thornton’s previous spot, then allowing him to fire off a shot when his man went to cover Tippett.
That cycle switched up Arizona’s individual assignments and allowed for Thornton to slip in behind the defense, which put him in the right position when the puck eventually bounced his way after Reinhart bounced Montour’s rebound out to him.
It was Thornton’s first game since Oct. 19 and he returned to his spot on the second unit alongside Montour, Tippett, Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe.
“When he’s playing I think Joe can give us that look, give us some opportunity on that line,” Joel Quenneville said.
“I thought that line was effective tonight — nice play [Reinhart] kicked over to him on the open side and Joe burying it. It’s one of those nights where being around the net was an effective play but I thought that line did some other things well. Joe was on the power play before he was missing games, as well, so I think he’s playing to be there.”
Another staple to the power play’s success in Monday’s win against the Arizona Coyotes were point shots.
It was a Montour point-shot that put the puck in front of the net for Reinhart to be able to bounce the puck to Thornton. Midway through the second, another one would break through this time from the first unit.
With 9:41 to go in the second period, Aaron Ekblad sent one of his signature ‘Ekblasts’ past a heavily screened Karel Vejmelka to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead.
Screens from Sam Bennett and Patrick Hornqvist helped make it difficult for Vejmelka to detect the puck, while Jonathan Huberdeau was the player who fed Ekblad the puck to fire off that point shot.
Captain Sasha Barkov also had a solid one-timer lane from the right face-off circle, but Ekblad fired it away and it paid off in a goal.
“I think Ekbad did a great job shooting from the middle, Montour did a great job shooting from the middle,” Thornton said. “You know, when it’s there, get pucks through, and like you saw tonight, good things happen.”
With the point shots driving play, the puck is getting to the net and it’s being put in the hands of guys like Thornton to put in off of bounces — and that seems to be the winning formula.
“When we get away from the net, it’s almost too many plays before we get the next play to the net,” Quenneville said.
“When we start converging a little sooner and making it more predictable that the puck is going to be going in that direction, things aren’t going to happen.”
Well, things did happen: Florida went 2-for-3 on the power play, driving plays toward the net and using cycles to open up spots for their goal scorers to tuck any rebounds home.
“I think it’s about our time; we’re going to get better and better as we get more comfortable with each other and the key for us is getting more pucks on net. When you shoot the puck with a screen, good things are going to happen and you saw that tonight.”
Things are definitely looking up for the Panthers on the power play.
Since last Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay which sparked the power play goal streak, Florida leads the NHL with five power play goals scored.
They’re starting to shoot the puck more and drive it through screens and that’s opening up more and more opportunities for them to convert on the man advantage.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
BOSTON BRUINS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- WHEN: Wednesday, 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