Before the Florida Panthers played the Washington Capitals on Monday night, coach Andrew Brunette said the lineup would remain the same.
It just did not look the same.
Brunette mixed things up going into Game 4 — shuffling his top three forward lines and top two defensive pairings.
It all seemed to work.
Florida’s defensive play was one of its best of the season as the Panthers split up Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar.
That not only allowing Ben Chiarot to play with Ekblad for the first time, but reunited Weegar with Gus Forsling — a defensive pairing that played so well together when Ekblad has been injured.
Florida held Washington to just 16 shots on goal and 37 shot attempts in its 3-2 overtime win which evened the best-of-7 series at two games each.
”It’s harder to change defensive pairings, especially in a playoff series,” Brunette said. “We thought we would give it a try — to give (Chiarot) a chance to finally play with Eky and get that feeling. I thought that was important and thought they played really well together. It brought part-heaviness and puck moving. … I thought they complimented each other very well.”
— Mason Marchment did not skate Wednesday and it looks like Maxim Mamin gets back in.
Brunette said Marchment is a game-time decision and is dealing with a previous injury.
— Sergei Bobrovsky made a terrific save on Marcus Johansson just before coming to the bench with 3:09 remaining on Monday, an aggressive move by Brunette which paid off.
Sam Reinhart was able to tie the score with 2:04 left as the Panthers had six skaters deep in the Washington zone.
“I was going to do it a little bit earlier. Thank God I didn’t,” Brunette said. “It’s one of those things where you flip a coin. Then there was icing and we got our group out there and I have a lot of trust in them that they’ll make something happen. They made things happen all years and it continued (Monday).”
With a laugh, Brunette admitted sometimes luck plays a hand.
“I don’t know anything,’’ he joked. “You take a chance and it worked out.”
As for Bobrovsky’s performance on Monday night?
”He has been rock solid,” Brunette said. “He has been lasered in and laser focused. You can tell he is on it, has kept us in games by making big saves. He has given us the opportunity to be at 2-2.”
— Washington goalie Ilya Samsonov is now 1-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage in his two-plus games in net.
In those games, Samsonov has a .967 save percentage at 5-on-5, which is the third-highest in the playoffs among goaltenders with at least two games played. Bobrovsky is at .922 in 5-on-5 play.
— Brunette said he thought Sam Bennett was OK after taking a high hit from T.J. Oshie — there was no fine — in the third period. Bennett did need stitches above his eye.
Although the league took no disciplinary action, Brunette “did not like” the hit.
”My opinion doesn’t really matter, but I didn’t like the hit,” he said. “I think it … yeah … I didn’t like it.”
— Carter Verhaeghe became the first Florida player to score in regulation and overtime of a playoff game.
— Florida’s power play was 0-for-4 on Monday and is scoreless in 13 tries this postseason. Florida did get a lot of looks on the power play but still failed to score.
”I think we are a little bit snake-bitten,” Brunette said. “Power plays are funny things. I thought we have had some pretty good looks. If you had told me it was 0-for-13, I haven’t hated it. We have missed some pretty good opportunities, have been a little reluctant to attack more. That would be my complaint on that.
“It takes one. We’re getting looks and we’re getting close. It’s going to be an important factor here but we’re due. I think we get one and the floodgates will open up.”
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (TIED 2-2)
- Game 5: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN2
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-220); Puck line (-1.5, +100); Over/Under 6.5 (-125/+105); Series (-300)
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida 3, @Washington 2 (OT); Game 5: Washington at Florida, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN2/BSF); Game 6: Florida at Washington, Friday (Time, National TV TBA); Game 7*: Washington at Florida, Sunday. *If necessary
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
Coach: Andrew Brunette
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux
98 Maxim Mamin // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
55 Noel Acciari // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
8 Ben Chiarot // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 52 MacKenzie Weegar
7 Radko Gudas // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
PP1: Reinhart – Barkov – Giroux – Huberdeau – Ekblad
PP2: Hornqvist – Bennett – Duclair – Marchment – Montour
Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Joe Thornton, Robert Hagg, Jonas Johansson, Ryan Lomberg, Mason Marchment
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
PROJECTED WASHINGTON CAPITALS LINEUP
Coach: Peter Laviolette
8 Alex Ovechkin // 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov // 77 T.J. Oshie
90 Marcus Johansson // 19 Nicklas Backstrom // 39 Anthony Mantha
24 Connor McMichael // 20 Lars Eller // 73 Conor Sheary
22 Johan Larsson // 26 Nic Dowd // 21 Garnet Hathaway
42 Martin Fehervary // 74 John Carlson
9 Dmitri Orlov // 3 Nick Jensen
57 Trevor van Riemsdyk // 2 Justin Schultz
30 Ilya Samsonov
41 Vitek Vanecek
PP1: Oshie – Backstrom – Kuznetsov – Ovechkin – Carlson
PP2: Johansson – Sheary – Mantha – Schultz – Orlov
Injured: Tom Wilson (d2d, LBI)
Washington Capitals lines courtesy WashingtonHockeyNow.Com