SUNRISE — Even after finally breaking through late in Game 3, the objective for the Florida Panthers against the Vegas Golden Knights is to get shots through.
The Golden Knights play a very structured defensive zone game — both on the penalty kill and 5-on-5 — which consists of a ton of blocked shots and clogged up passing lanes.
And it has frustrated the Panthers at times.
Florida is 0-for-12 on the power play to start the series with minimal success 5-on-5 to boot.
“I know they’re really good at blocking shots and I think we need to try to shoot faster,” Anton Lundell said.
”We know they are trying to block shots, so we need to move the puck a bit, change the angle and maybe more one-timers or quick shots. When we get them through, we need to have more guys at the net putting in rebounds.”
Puck movement on the power play has been a big problem in particular for the Panthers.
They have been slow and sloppy with their movement as they have tried to navigate through the box of Golden Knights penalty killers in front of the net.
As passive as that box moves, Vegas’ penalty kill consists of a lot of players with long, active sticks who are able to force Florida players to move the puck quicker than intended.
And that has led to some turnovers and untimely mistakes which have killed the Panthers’ momentum on the power play.
”I think we are kind of forcing plays a bit early, but I think a lot of times on the power play it’s a quick shot on a broken play that goes in,” Carter Verhaeghe said.
”It’s not always going to be the perfect play and I think that’s what we have to do with our 5-on-5 mindset, too. We have to be on the puck, get pucks back and get pucks on the net.”
The challenge is not too dissimilar to one the Panthers have faced before.
In the first round, they played a very defensively structured Boston Bruins team which gave them fits on the power play to start the series.
Florida went 1-for-11 on the man advantage in the first four games of the series before falling into a 3-1 hole.
They were 4-for-9 in the final three games en route to a historic comeback.
The blueprint is there, although the Panthers hope to be tied 2-2 against the Golden Knights after Saturday night’s Game 4 instead of needing to take a 3-1 series deficit back to Vegas.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Ryan Lomberg said.
”Ever since that mentality came about, we realized that win or lose, it doesn’t do us any good to get too far ahead of ourselves. As tough as it is, we just have to stay in the moment, enjoy the process and the results will be there.”
Eetu Luostarinen will remain out of the Panthers lineup against the Knights, per coach Paul Maurice.
Luostarinen, who has been missing since blocking a shot with his leg in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, was originally expected to suit up in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
He has been listed as “day-to-day” ever since, although Maurice did not sound optimistic when asked Luostarinen could return in Game 5 on Tuesday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
GAME 4 (Vegas leads 2-1)
- When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Betting odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-115); Puck line (-1.5, +220); Over/Under 6 (+110/-120). Series: Vegas favored -260
- Series Schedule — Game 1: @Vegas 5, Florida 2; Game 2: @Vegas 7, Florida 2; Game 3: @Florida 3, Vegas 2 (OT); Game 4: Saturday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5: Tuesday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- Postseason History: First meeting
- How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
94 Ryan Lomberg// 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
22 Zac Dalpe // 12 Eric Staal // 6 Colin White
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
34 Alex Lyon
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald, Mike Benning, Evan Fitzpatrick, Givani Smith, Lucas Carlsson, Connor Bunnaman, Grigori Denisenko, Patrick Giles, Mack Guzda, Aleksi Heponiemi, Matt Kiersted, Santtu Kinnunen, John Ludvig, Mackie Samsoskevich, Calle Sjalin
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Eetu Luostarinen (LBI)
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINEUP
49 Ivan Barbashev // 9 Jack Eichel // 81 Jonathan Marchessault
21 Brett Howden // 20 Chandler Stephenson // 61 Mark Stone
19 Reilly Smith // 71 William Karlsson // 22 Mike Amadio
28 Will Carrier // 10 Nicolas Roy // 55 Keegan Kolesar
23 Alec Martinez // 7 Alex Pietrangelo
3 Brayden McNabb // 27 Shea Theodore
14 Nicolas Hague // 2 Zach Whitecloud
33 Adin Hill
32 Jonathan Quick