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Florida Panthers shoot for the Stars, settle for 3-1 win over Dallas

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Stars Panthers Florida Dallas
Keith Yandle scored the game-winning goal for the Florida Panthers in their game against the Dallas Stars on Monday at BB&T Center. // File photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography

If the Florida Panthers don’t have a goalie controversy as coach Joel Quenneville says, well, nothing really changed Monday night against the Dallas Stars.

Chris Driedger, making his fourth start in the past five games over Sergei Bobrovsky, stopped 24 shots in Florida’s 3-1 win over the visiting Dallas Stars at BB&T Center.

Driedger had a pretty easy night compared to what was going on at the other end of the ice.

Very few times have the Panthers been as dominant and spent basically an entire period in the opponent’s side of the ice as they did during Monday’s second.

The Panthers forced Anton Khudobin into making 27 saves in the second period alone.

Florida got goals from Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle in that second — one in which the Panthers took a whopping (and a franchise-record) 29 shots on goal and 42 attempted shots.

”It was fun to watch,” Quenneville said. “The guys really had a lot of energy, great speed … a couple big goals with point shots at the top. Their goalie got a lot of work. … It was one of those periods you will always remember.”

Despite all that, Florida only led 2-1 going into the third.

Khudobin, on the wrong end of the score, would have been the game’s top star had the game stopped right then and there.

The Stars may not have played a game in nine days due to postponements because of the severe winter storm which brought Dallas and most of Texas to a crawl.

And, at least in the second period, it didn’t look like the Stars got much practice time either.

They were run into the ground by a Panthers team looking like they their button was stuck on fast-forward.

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“We’re fast,” MacKenzie Weegar said. “Once the cycle starts going, it’s tough to defend us and I think we’ve shown that all year. It’s fun to be part of.”

In the third period, the Panthers kept up the pressure but it would have been hard to keep up that kind of intensity.

The Panthers were aiming for their franchise record of 55 shots on goal set twice, but came up just short at 52 on Monday.

The final SOG was an empty-netter from Sasha Barkov in the final seconds of the game. That iced the win for the Panthers who are now 5-0 this season coming off a loss.

Khudobin gave up two goals, making 49 saves and took the loss.

As for Florida‘s goalie situation, nothing much seemed to change.

If Quenneville thinks Driedger has played his way into the starter’s net, Monday would not have changed that.

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The only goal Driedger gave up early on came after he made the initial stop of a shot and got beat off the rebound no Florida player was close to cleaning up.

”It was a pleasure to watch. The guys went to work in the second,” Driedger said. “I haven’t seen a period that dominant in a long time. For me, I’m just trying to stay in (the game). Khudobin was standing on his head over there so it would be a killer if I let one in there. I just tried to stay sharp.”

Khudobin’s spot seems pretty secure.

The guy who helped lead Dallas to the Stanley Cup Finals in last summer’s bubble may want to take tomorrow off.

Take a dip in the Atlantic, Anton. Grab something cold.

You deserve it.

”He was great last year in the playoffs, he carried Dallas … to the Finals and he’s doing that this season as well,” Barkov said.

”He is obviously a great goalie. A little old-school type goalie but that doesn’t matter because the puck doesn’t go in the net. He did another great job today. It’s not easy facing 50-plus shots.”

First period highlights

It did not look like Dallas had not played in nine days.

The Stars came out with a jump, scoring first at 4:29 when Blake Comeau worked his way through traffic and followed up on a rebound left by Driedger on a Jason Robertson shot.

Florida did not test Khudobin a whole lot in the first although the Panthers took 11 shots on goal in the period.

The Panthers and Stars both had a power play chance that did not pay off.

It was not a very exciting first period. 

The brief thank-you vide to Dallas defenseman Mark Pysyk, who spent four seasons with the Panthers, was nice. He seemed to be surprised by and appreciative for it.

But there wasn’t a whole lot going on.

If you flipped on the Lightning-Carolina game just to see some action, no one is going to tell.

Second period highlights

Hope you came back from the Tampa Bay game.

My goodness were the Panthers a dominant offensive team in the second.

”You can’t predict that,” Quenneville said afterward. “It was fun to watch it for sure. The guys were having fun on the bench.”

Sure, they only led 2-1 at the break, but there have been few periods in which the Panthers completely lived in the offensive zone and peppered Khudobin from the start.

At puck drop to start the second, Florida had three prime scoring chances within the first 90 seconds from Gustav Forsling, Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Huberdeau.

In all, the Panthers sent a franchise record with 29 shots on goal and took aim with 42 shot attempts.

Dallas, without the excellence Khudobin showed, could have trailed 7-1 after two.

Florida outshot the Stars 29-4 in the second period and won the shot-attempt battle by an even wider margin at 42-5.

Still, it was a 1-0 Dallas game until Ekblad hammered a shot from above the left circle at 8:41 of the period.

The shot clock for the second, at that time, was 12-1.

It took the Panthers another 10 minutes to take the lead, breaking the tie on another long slap shot from Yandle at 18:18. Florida was outshooting the Stars 25-4 in the period at that point.

By the end of the second period alone, Khudobin had made 39 saves.

”It was a pretty wild second period,” Driedger said. “I looked up (at the Jumbrotron) a couple times and was shocked pretty much every time I looked up. We had 10 quicks ones so it was 20-10, then 30, then 40. Man.

“We have a good team this year and the guys have been going to work. Sometimes they go into the net and sometimes you have to work harder at it.””

Stars Panthers Florida Dallas

The Florida Panthers possession metrics went through the roof during the second period Monday. — per www.NaturalStatTrick.com

Third period highlights

Shots on goal were tied 6-6 at the midway mark of the period which was a win for the Stars yet the score had not changed.

Khudobin was still under attack and had to turn back a couple more prime scoring chances by the Panthers — including a Frank Vatrano breakaway.

Barkov got the empty net goal. Good times.

More on Barkov here at Florida Hockey Now tomorrow morning.

See you then.

George’s Three Stars of the Game

1. G Anton  Khudobin, Dallas

2. D Aaron Ekblad, Florida

3. D Keith Yandle, Florida

Up Next: Dallas Stars at Florida Panthers

When: Wednesday, 5 p.m.

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise

Tickets: AVAILABLE HERE

TV/Radio: FSF/560-AM

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Dale Huber

He didn’t get any points tonight, but Hornqvist was excellent. The shot of him on the bench, after the power play, no helmet on, trying to catch his breath, said it all.

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