Florida Panthers Win Big in Washington. They Need to Keep It Up
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The Florida Panthers got a gigantic win on Thursday night.
They treated their matchup with the Washington Capitals as if it was a playoff game, went in with a desperate mindset and were, in a word, fantastic.
The Panthers dominated the Capitals for much of the night in a 6-3 win which may have been a little tighter at the end than they had hoped.
”We got to a lead which was good for us to put that last game behind us,” Paul Maurice said.
Make no mistake: This was a big win for the Panthers.
And now is not the time to take their foot off the proverbial gas pedal as they have won five of seven.
Beating the Capitals on Thursday will do this team no good if it turns around and lays an egg in either one of their upcoming afternoon games against the Predators in Nashville on Saturday or Monday at home against the Ducks.
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While neither Nashville nor Anaheim is ahead of the Panthers in the standings (much less in the same conference), those two points count the same.
And the Panthers still are not even close to being out of danger when it comes to missing this postseason.
While they pull into a tie (in points) with the Capitals for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they still have to keep an open eye on the likes of Buffalo, Detroit and the Islanders — not to mention, you know, the Capitals.
A few weeks ago, the Panthers figured out what it would take to get to 100 points (that’s what Washington got last season for the final wild card) and they still need 38 points in their final 24 games to get there.
That means there is still no real room for error.
Another losing streak down the stretch and the Panthers will be toast.
”I thought last month we had to get (the deficit) to four or five and this month we need to get to even, kill the games-in-hand in March,’’ Maurice said. “It is going to be a constant grinder all the way through. A win like tonight, with the kind of schedule we have had, they start to believe.”
As it stands right now, Florida has to go something like 18-4-2 in their final 24 games to hit 100 points. That should be enough to make the playoffs.
It is also a lot of wins and not too many losses.
”We fought like crazy in January to kind of keep our heads above water with the schedule we had,” said Marc Staal, who scored his first goal with Florida to give his team a 2-0 lead in the second.
“We worked really hard to put ourselves in this position now. The games are running out and we know we have to win a lot of them. Beating a (conference) opponents are big. It feels good but we have a lot of work to do. Lets get started.”
Following Thursday night’s win, the Panthers were not in the mood to do a whole lot of math.
Nor should they have been.
They had been looking ahead to this Washington game for some time what with the Capitals being the main target for that wild card spot and the Panthers certainly answered the call.
Although the Capitals cashed in on a pair of late power play chances to cut Florida’s lead to 4-3, the Panthers tightened up defensively and took advantage of the Capitals’ desperation with Anton Lundell and Sam Reinhart scoring two empty net goals to put this one away.
Before that, the Panthers were completely in control.
Gus Forsling, Staal and Colin White (who was a healthy scratch the past three_ gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead before Washington scored.
The Panthers answered when Sasha Barkov and Grigori Denisenko came down on a 2-on-1 with Barkov making the big shot to give Florida its three-goal lead back.
”We slowed it down and watched it a bunch of times,” Maurice said of Barkov’s no-look goal. “His head never checks his shoulder. He has done that too many times to say it was lucky. Incredible goal. Huge goal for us to have a three-goal cushion was huge.”
Said White: “I have been working really hard and hard work pays off. It felt really good to come in and contribute to a big win. Everyone played awesome and we all knew how big of a game this was. It felt like a playoff game out there. Everyone brought their best effort.’’
With a lot of run support, Sergei Bobrovsky was strong in net with only the power play goals — one came on a 6-on-4 with the Washington goalie pulled — pulling him out of contention for one of the three star honors.
None of that matters now.
The Panthers came to Washington to take care of business.
They did just that.
Now, the Panthers have to keep that up in Nashville.
Sometimes that is tough to do in a town like that but this team sounds focused on the road ahead.
”We have done a lot of work and now there is an opportunity for us,” Bobrovsky said. “We’re excited about it and enjoying every second of it.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NASHVILLE PREDATORS
- When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
- Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Sun, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 21-12-6, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Anaheim at Florida, Monday, 1 p.m.
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As strong a game up and down the lines as I have seen all season. I don’t hold the late PPG’s too much against them, I felt both calls were poor by the crew. I have a sinking feeling the refs will make more of those against the Cats as the season winds down (up?) in solidarity against Maurice.
Talk about the art of the no look pass ! I watched barkov’s goal late second period no fewer than a dozen times in Slo-mo and stop-action. He never takes his eyes off Denisenko from the blue line in. With Kuemper expecting the cross ice pass but still not cheating, Barky knows exactly how much room he’s got glove-side (3 inches?) with that great left-handed shot. One sweep and it’s one sweet piece o’ work from the Big “C”. I heard there was a Kuemp sighting in Billings trying to re-locate his j-s.
The points needed to get in this year will probably be 95 in the East. The Cats have ROW in their favor if they wind up tied in points. I can also see the possibility of a dead tie with the NYI, where it could come down to points differential. So we better run up the score where we can. Don’t miss those empty nets.