“A couple glaring things,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said when asked to assess his team’s performance. “Every time we take the lead, it’s tough when the momentum changes and the other team ties it up right after. It’s a pattern so far in the first three games. It’ something that’s got to change.”
After taking a 2-1 lead late in the second period on a goal from Vincent Trocheck, the Canucks were awarded a rare penalty shot after Antoine Roussel was hooked on a breakaway. On the ensuing attempt, Roussel scored to tie the game at 2 a mere 55 seconds after Florida’s score.
In the third, Bo Horvat scored the game-winning goal off a nice cross-ice feed to put Vancouver up 3-2 at 6:11 of the period. With a game-high 62 shot attempts in all situations, Florida won the possession battle for the third-straight game, but walked away with no points to show for it.
With plenty of hockey left to play this season, Trocheck believes his team is close to turning a corner.
“I think all three games we’ve controlled the game for the most part,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things we can be positive about and we’re playing pretty good hockey, but we’re kind of beating ourselves. We’re giving teams just a few chances, but the chances we’re giving up are Grade-A quality opportunities that we can’t be giving up.”
The main thing that kept the Panthers from picking up their first two points of the season was likely their inability to win the special teams battle. Florida, still searching for its first goal of the season with the extra attacker, went 0-for-5 on the power play after Trocheck’s second period goal was scored seconds after a power play expired, while Vancouver netted 1-of-3.
“We finished a minus in the special teams department again tonight,” Boughner said. “That’s usually what a lot of these games come down to is special teams. Again, once you get that lead, it’s keeping the lead and keeping the momentum. We’ve got to figure out how to do a better job of that.”
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s loss in Sunrise…
1. BLOCK PARTY
When the Panthers got a shot off, a Canucks skater was usually there to stop it.
Vancouver’s defenders were sacrificing their bodies early and often on Saturday night, finishing with a game-high 23 blocked shots. Of those blocks, around 10 came when the Panthers were on the man advantage.
Chris Tanev led the Canucks with a game-high eight blocks, while Alexander Edler added five.
“They did a really good job,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. “Their D blocked a lot of shots, especially Edler. He blocked a lot of shots. You got guys whipping pucks at him. But I thought we took some positives out of it. We got some good looks. We got some good plays off, but we weren’t even able to get it to the net, I guess.”
Despite failing to convert, Yandle believes the power play is close to finding its groove.
“I think we’re really close,” he said. “We got a ton of good looks.”
2. HUBY DOES IT
Jonathan Huberdeau recorded his first goal of the season on Saturday night, picking up his own rebound and sending it past Anders Nilsson to open the scoring and put the Panthers ahead 1-0 at 12:31 of the second period – the second time in three games Florida has scored first.
Trocheck and Denis Malgin, who was bumped up to the second line before the game, picked up the assists on the goal. Overall, Boughner said he liked the performance of the team’s new-look second line, which saw all three players finish with an even-strength shot attempt percentage above 70.
“I thought they played more desperate and won more puck battles and things like that,” Boughner said. “It was good to see them get rewarded.”
On the heels of a breakout campaign in which he set new career highs in goals (27), assists (42) and points (69), Huberdeau is once again expected to be one of the driving forces behind Florida’s offense this season. In addition to his goal, he also finished tied for the team lead with three shots over 15:20 of ice time against the Canucks.
3. TROCHECK TEES ONE UP
You won’t see it on the scoresheet as a power-play goal, but it basically was one.
Just a few seconds after the man advantage expired, Trocheck put the Panthers on top for the first time all night, blasting a one-timer from the left circle over Nilsson’s shoulder to give Florida a 2-1 lead at 17:20 of the second period. Like Huberdeau, it was Trocheck’s first of the season.
“We sustained pressure for the majority of the power play for pretty much every one,” Trocheck said. “I think we’re definitely getting the opportunities, we’re getting the O-zone time, we’re tiring out the PK. It’s just a matter of us putting the puck in the net.”
Like Boughner, Trocheck also said he felt his new line performed well.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Trocheck said. “I think we were in the O-zone the majority of the night. Not too many defensive shifts that I can remember. When we were, I think our D were playing really well, solid defensively… Overall, I think we played pretty well.”
4. BOGDAN LOWERS THE BOOM
You can put Bogdan Kiselevich in a cage, but you can’t contain him.
Less than three weeks after suffering a broken jaw in the preseason finale, Kiselevich showed an impressive amount of strength and discipline in his long-awaited NHL debut with Florida. In addition to spending ample time on the penalty kill (he skated 2:21 shorthanded), he also threw a pair of big checks, including laying out Jake Virtanen late in the first period.
“I thought, for his first game, he did pretty well,” Boughner said of Kiselevich, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers this summer after spending nearly a decade in the KHL. “I think he’s going to continue to just get better. It’s going to take him some time.”
A 6-foot, 207-pound native of Cherepovets, Russia, Kiselevich had 23 goals and 100 assists in 393 career KHL games for CSKA Moscow (2014-18) and Severstal Cherepovets (2009-14). In 2017-18, he posted 16 assists in 44 games and was named to the KHL First All-Star Team.
In his NHL debut, he skated 16:44 alongside Alexander Petrovic on Florida’s bottom pairing.
5. LU’S LEGACY
In the first installment of their season-long “Legacy Saturdays” series, the Panthers celebrated the on-going, surefire Hall of Fame career of goaltender Roberto Luongo, who became just the third netminder to ever suit up in 1,000 NHL games, a milestone he hit during a 3-2 win over Boston on April 5.
Luongo, 39, said he had around 30 family and friends in attendance.
“It’s going to be nice,” said Luongo, who is Florida’s all-time leader in wins (212) and shutouts (37). “I’m disappointed that I obviously won’t be able to play, but my parents flew down and there’s going to be a lot of family here. It’s going to be nice to have the presentation. I’m obviously thankful to have the Florida Panthers put it together for me.”
Unable to play due to a knee injury suffered during the season opener in Tampa, Luongo, who is expected to miss the next 2-4 weeks, was honored prior to puck drop with a video tribute and multitude of gifts, including a golden goalie paddle from Panthers general manager Dale Tallon.
“It’s a really big achievement for him,” said Barkov, who presented Luongo with a framed puck display. “A thousand games for a goalie is an amazing thing. You have to mentally get ready for 1,000 games for a goalie it’s a big thing. We’re really lucky to have him in this organization.”
In the midst of his 19th NHL season, Luongo needs 28 more games to surpass Patrick Roy’s 1,029 for second-place on the league’s all-time list. He also only needs 13 more victories to move into a tie with former Panther Ed Belfour for third place on the league’s all-time wins list.
Those numbers, however, are dwarfed by his desire to hoist the Stanley Cup.
“To be honest with you, I just want to be back in the playoffs,” Luongo said. “That’s what I want to play for right now. The records are nice, but I just want to be in the playoffs. That’s why I play. I think this group is going to get there; I just want to make sure I’m part of it when they do.”
For a full list of upcoming “Legacy Saturdays”, please visit https://www.nhl.com/panthers/tickets/legacy.