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Florida Panthers Put Ottawa Behind, Prepare for Carolina

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Brandon Montour, who scored Florida’s second goal Tuesday, congratulates Aaron Ekblad after he scored 19 seconds into Florida’s eventual 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers did not play their best in a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

Far from it.

Coach Paul Maurice saw a sluggish game coming from his team a few days removed from a 9-2 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which capped a three-game road trip where Florida outscored its opponents 18-4.

“I had one of my trainers text me in practice yesterday a line that I would remember for my pre-game speech,” Maurice said. “And when he texted me this, I was like, ‘I’m going to need to remember this tomorrow because this is ugly.’ So we live, and we learn.“

A goal from Aaron Ekblad 19 seconds into the game made the Panthers even more comfortable.

While the Panthers recovered from a sleepy start to the second period — one in which they were outshot 6-1 through the first 9:33 — with a Brandon Montour goal late in the period, they gave Ottawa enough bounces to get back into the game.

Florida had multiple chances to win a puck battle in the corner before Thomas Chabot put the Senators on the board with a wrist shot from the point 5:36 into the third period.

The Panthers also made a few choppy passes in the offensive zone — particularly a forced backhand pass to the slot by Sam Bennett, which was poked away — before Tim Stutzle broke out on the rush, split two Panthers defenders and beat Sergei Bobrovsky through his five-hole with 11:14 to go to tie the score.

”We hadn’t played poorly in one, and today we did,” coach Paul Maurice said, referring to the road trip.

“That’s not a style that we’d like to kind of nail down. We’ve been really good, we played very, very well. We weren’t very good tonight. You could almost feel it coming when you score nine the game before and then you score in the first minute. 

“It felt like the first game back from a road trip, but it’s not something we’ve really suffered from, so we just weren’t very good.

“And I mean this as a positive thing: It’s good when you have that many guys (who are) bad. If you have one or two guys that are off and half your team’s right then that’s that, but when you have a group that’s not as good or not really close to where we would expect them to play, there’s something else there that you have a pretty good handle on.”

Still, they found a way to win the game.

Maurice swapped the lines up, paired Anton Lundell and Evan Rodrigues with Ryan Lomberg and liked what he saw from them in the defensive zone to help them get to overtime in the first place.

And Lundell ended it in overtime.

“It’s fitting,” Ekblad said. “He deserves it. He’s getting inside on puck battles and he makes the right play all the time. And then he goes and makes an ESPN Top 10 play, so we’re pretty happy.”

The Panthers have grown used to being in situations like last night and will only have to continue to do so as they look to extend their winning streak from six to seven games against the host Carolina Hurricanes tonight.

Florida, which ended Tuesday night with the best point percentage in the NHL at .696, has come into the third with a lead 29 times this season.

The Panthers are 26-0-3 in those games.

“I think it’s one of those where teams are going to keep coming,” Montour said.

”They did a good job, obviously tying it up, but we kept it cool. Our group is good at living in the moment, shift by shift, the next group goes out there. We’re getting good shifts by each guy, each line and then a skill play in overtime there and we just keep rolling.”

But as the team took off for Raleigh, the Panthers were not planning on looking back at this game much.

Maurice canceled the team’s practice ahead of their Wednesday flight, and hopes his team comes back with the same hard-checking, responsible style of game that has been their calling card. 

“The hallmark of our team is that we’ve had some games where we haven’t played particularly well and we’ve come out and built off it,” Maurice said.

“So we’re probably not going to do too much video off this one. We’re going to change the way we do things and prepare for the next one.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C.
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0.
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14
  • All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties
  • Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF)
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m.

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