Devils End Losing Streak, Drop Florida Panthers in Third
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SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers thought they had the New Jersey Devils right where they wanted them.
Ryan Lomberg cut into a wide open crease 2:06 into the third period with a chance to put his team up two when he let go of a backhand shot.
He thought he caught Mackenzie Blackwood out of position. The Devils netminder had other plans.
Blackwood sprawled across the crease to make a glove save that would keep his team in the game and to swing the momentum of what was his first start since Nov. 3.
Thirty-six seconds later, the Devils tied the score at 2.
That moment proved to be a momentum killer for a Panthers team that could not solve Blackwood in the final period and watched the Devils snap a six-game losing streak with a 4-2 win at FLA Live Arena.
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”It’s a tough one for us to eat,’’ Josh Mahura said, “so we will have to correct it before the break here.”
Florida fell to 15-15-4 with their fifth loss in the last seven games and their second-straight loss since losing captain Sasha Barkov to a lower-body injury against the Devils on Saturday.
Albeit with a heavily-injured lineup, the Panthers are in danger of entering the holiday break with a points percentage under .500 just six months after winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
“I think we have said before it’s always next-man up regardless of who is in the lineup,” Mahura said.
“We expect to play our best and whoever is in is expected to pick up goals so it’s tough but we have one more game before we head home for the break”
The Panthers’ third line set the tone early on with a hard forecheck that resulted in an Eric Staal goal to open the scoring 4:45 into the contest.
After going without a goal in his first 21 games this season, Staal now has three in his last six games — including two in as many games.
Jesper Bratt tied the game up with a quick goal five seconds into a Devils power play — seconds after current New Jersey power play coach and ex-Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette was honored with a video tribute.
Brunette was busy shouting direction to his power play units as the video played on before waving to the crowd when it ended.
Following the game, he met with Barkov for a long time near the visiting room.
It turned out to be a good night for the Devils — and for Brunette.
The Devils appeared to take the lead with 8:42 to go in the opening frame off of a Miles Wood deflection but video review proved that he did so with a high stick and it was quickly waved off.
Late in a slow second period, the Panthers broke the deadlock in style.
Florida found themselves pinned in their defensive zone with a power play opportunity quickly going to waste when Bennett took matters into his own hands.
He sped past a defender and juked around another and found a wide-open Eetu Luostarinen for what was the game-winning goal.
All Luostarinen had to do was cork up a wrist shot from the top of the circle and Florida suddenly found themselves in the lead with 3:48 to go in the second period.
Anton Lundell picked up an assist on the goal in his return from what was a nine-game absence from an upper-body injury.
”From the amount of time off he had, he couldn’t do a whole lot of work while he was healing so I thought he was really good,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
After what looked to be a surefire 3-1 lead swung to a 2-2 tie in a matter of seconds, the Devils kept their foot on the gas.
Yegor Sharngovich tipped a Jonas Siegenthaler shot that bounced past Sergei Bobrovsky to give New Jersey the lead.
Bobrovsky finished the game with 29 saves on 32 shots.
”He has been unbelievable and everyone has been echoing that he gives us a chance to win every night,” Mahura said.
”All you can expect from your goalie is to give yourself a chance and he is doing that every night for us, so it’s a tough one to let that slip for him.”
The Panthers generated a few scoring chances with the net empty but Tomas Tatar ended their hopes with an empty netter with 39.1 seconds to go.
After the empty net goal, a brawl broke out with Matthew Tkachuk going after Nico Hischier likely in retaliation for his hit on Barkov’s knee in Newark last Saturday night.
Three Florida players — Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour — were tossed out.
Florida will head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders on Dec. 23 before they take a five-day break for the holidays.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Jesper Bratt, New Jersey (two goals)
2. Yegor Sharangovich, New Jersey (game-winning goal)
3. Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey (34 saves, win)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: UBS Arena; Elmont, N.Y.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season (Florida 1-0): Florida 3, Islanders 1 (Oct. 13); Florida 3, Islanders 2 (Oct. 23)
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 56-32-11, 8 ties
- Next Up for the Panthers: Dec. 29 vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
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Hopefully we get healthy after the break and can at least make it interesting going down the stretch. This was an entertaining game for sure, would have obviously liked the win, but they played hard, and with energy, they just fell short. Sometimes you play well, do all the right things and still fall short, that’s hockey.
A good effort despite the depleted squad. The salute to Andrew Brunette was a classy touch by the team which led to the fans in the shouting “bring him back.”