EDMONTON – The Florida Panthers were seconds away from two points.
With the goaltender pulled, Connor McDavid scored with eight seconds left on the clock to force overtime and an eventual shootout, where the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner scored again to send the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 win over the Panthers on Thursday night at Rogers Place.
“Unfortunate, the way it ended,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “Eight seconds to go to get two points. I thought we played a heck of a road game. I think we gave up 18 shots in regulation. We produced some chances. We scored a big goal at the end. We did a lot of good things. I feel bad for the guys because I thought they worked hard. I thought they responded.
“We got contributions throughout the lineup, but we didn’t find a way to win. That’s what we talked about yesterday: finding ways to win games. Overtime’s a tough game against these guys, obviously, with some of their skills, and a shootout’s anybody’s game. It’s disappointing that we were eight seconds away from getting the two.”
McDavid, who was named the game’s first star, finished with two goals and an assist.
“He was their game tonight,” Boughner said. “He was all their offense again. It seems like he does it to every team every night.”
The Panthers (17-17-8) never trailed against the Oilers, unable to hold onto a one-goal lead on three separate occasions. Frank Vatrano, Denis Malgin and Henrik Borgstrom each found the back of the net for Florida, which will look to snap out of a four-game skid on Friday night in Calgary.
“I think we played good the whole game,” Malgin said. “It’s hard to get the third goal with eight seconds from the end. That’s hockey, but we have a point. We’ve just got to keep going. Tomorrow’s a new game, and we’ve just got to try and win that.”
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s loss in Edmonton…
1. FRANKIE V. GOOD
Vatrano gave the Panthers an early boost on Thursday night.
After collecting a pass from Bogdan Kiselevich, the 24-year-old forward carried the puck into the offensive zone with speed before unleashing a wrist shot from the right circle that flew past Cam Talbot and into the net to break the ice and put Florida ahead 1-0 at 9:06 of the first period.
“I thought we played our game,” Vatrano told FOX Sports Florida’s Randy Moller of the team’s effort during the first intermission.
His 12th goal of the season, Vatrano has become one of Florida’s most-reliable scorers. With 42 games in the books, he has yet to go more than six games without lighting the lamp this season. Already building upon a career-high goal total, he’s also posted six assists and 102 shots.
2. A BETTER START
The Panthers are hoping a good first period in Edmonton is a sign of things to come.
Having surrendered the first goal in each of their previous seven games, the Panthers finally got the start they’d been looking for with Vatrano’s goal. And although Edmonton tied things up just 26 seconds later on a goal from Darnell Nurse, the first 20 minutes were mostly kind to Florida.
“We came out well, we prepared, and we got our matchups,” Boughner said of. “I thought that everybody played well defensively, managed the puck, all those things. We’re going to have to hopefully bring that in to Calgary tomorrow night against a real good hockey club.”
In the first period, Florida held advantages over the Oilers in both shots on goal (12-5) and shot attempts (17-15).
“It was good,” Borgstrom said. “It was better than the last, should I say, five games. Of course that’s something that we can look back to going into tomorrow night’s game.”
3. MALGIN MOVES UP
It didn’t take long for Malgin’s promotion to pay off for the Panthers.
Bumped up from the third to the first line for tonight’s game, the 21-year-old forward rewarded Boughner’s trust in a big way, jumping on a loose puck in the high slot and firing a wrist shot over Talbot’s blocker to put the Panthers ahead 2-1 at 4:28 of the second period.
“I was surprised I’m there, but it was nice to play there,” Malgin said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
In the midst of his third season with Florida, Malgin has posted five goals, five assists and 41 shots on goal in 28 games. He’s also been a positive possession player, entering the night with a 52.66 CF%, which places him fourth among the team’s regular forwards in that category.
4. BORGSTROM’S LATE GOAL
Borgstrom told a story after Thursday’s morning skate about going up against McDavid in an exhibition match when he was around 14 years old. Back then, the future Oilers captain, who was already pegged as a surefire first-round pick, led his team to a 10-plus goal victory.
And although McDavid came out victorious once again in their NHL rematch on Thursday night, it appeared up until the final seconds as if Borgstrom was going to be getting his revenge.
With the game knotted 2-2 late in the third period, Borgstrom sent a pass toward the crease from behind Edmonton’s net, with the puck then taking a couple fortuitous bounces off a pair of Oilers defenders in front and in to put the Panthers ahead 3-2 with 5:58 left in regulation.
“When the opposing team scores eight seconds before the end of the third, it’s a pretty bad feeling,” Borgstrom said. “You’re thinking you already won the game, kinda, especially when you’re on the bench and hoping to get the ‘W.'”
In 12 games since being recalled on Dec. 15, the 21-year-old center has tallied four goals and one assist while averaging 15:01 of ice time per game.
5. ANOTHER POINT FOR REIMER
James Reimer helped the Panthers pick up at least a point in his fifth straight game.
Stopping 21 of 24 shots – including multiple highlight-reel denies – the 30-year-old backup improved to 3-0-2 in his last five appearances. In overtime, Reimer made six saves.
“We thought we battled hard and probably deserved two points,” Reimer said. “They made a nice play with a couple seconds left and it goes into OT and a shootout. From there, it’s a circus and it’s anybody’s game.”