SUNRISE, Fla. – Gustav Nyquist scored the game-winning goal at 3:44 of overtime as the Florida Panthers let an early 2-0 lead slip through their fingers in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings at BB&T Center on Saturday night.
Florida (1-2-3) carried an early two-goal lead into the first intermission on goals from Keith Yandle and Nick Bjugstad, only to see that lead quickly evaporate in the second frame when a pair of penalties in rapid succession sent the Red Wings to a dangerous 5-on-3 powerplay.
Detroit converted on both opportunities with the extra attacker, as Dennis Cholowski and Thomas Vanek scored power-play goals 18 seconds apart to tie the game at 2 at 6:05 of the period. Two minutes later, Dylan Larkin scored to put the Wings up 3-2 at 7:50.
The Panthers have now allowed 14 goals in the second period this season.
“Our second periods have to get better,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s hurt us all year. It hurt us again tonight. We were up 2-0, and you can’t take a 5-on-3. It’s dumb. It’s a dumb penalty. It let them back in the game. It gave them some life, a team that hasn’t won yet.
“We knew that wouldn’t be easy. If you look at the scores in the games they’ve played, they’ve battled hard but haven’t gotten the results. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game after 2-0, but we just can’t do that. You can’t take a 5-on-3 and change the momentum.”
With seconds ticking away towards the end of regulation, Mike Hoffman made it 3-3 with 1:16 left in the third period to send the game to the extra frame and secure another point for Florida, which will now embark on a two-week road trip that will end with back-to-back games in Finland.
“We’ve got to use that to our advantage and really come together here,” Bjugstad said of the impending road trip. “It’s early, and we have high expectations. We’ve got some things to sort out.”
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s loss in Sunrise…
1. OFF TO THE RACES
With the game scoreless approaching the midway point of the first period, Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle took a pass from Evgenii Dadonov on a 2-on-2 break and fired a rocket of a wrist shot that went bar down and in. Yandle’s goal put the Panthers up 1-0 at 7:34 – the fifth time in six games Florida has scored first.
Entering Saturday night’s matchup producing at a point-per-game pace, Yandle, who leads the Panthers with six assists this season, is off to a good start as he looks to build off one of his all-time best offensive campaigns. In 2017-18, he produced 56 points (eight goals, 48 assists) in 82 games, becoming just the third defenseman in franchise history to post a 50-point season.
2. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
Not long after Yandle’s tally, the Red Wings tied the game at 1 – or did they?
With a lot of jostling for position going on at the Florida goalmouth, rookie Michael Rasmussen floated a shot on net that snuck through Michael Hutchinson and in at 9:31 of the first period to make it a 1-1 game. The Panthers, citing goalie interference, challenged the goal immediately.
After a brief review by officials, the NHL Situation Room determined that “the actions of [Justin] Abdelkader impaired Hutchinson’s ability to defend his goal.” Thus, the goal was taken off the board and Florida’s 1-0 lead remained intact. The challenge was the Panthers first of the season.
“We looked at it a few times,” Boughner said of the decision to challenge. “It was definitely worth a call, worth a shot. The more we looked at it after, the more it looked like our goalie didn’t get a chance to get the stick down, number one.”
3. BJUGY OFF THE BAT
If you put the puck on net, good things will happen.
That was the case for Bjugstad, who scored his second goal of the season on Saturday night by shooting first and asking questions later. After Aleksander Barkov won a faceoff in offensive zone, Bjugstad gathered the puck and let loose a quick shot from near the top of the left circle through traffic that found its way past Jimmy Howard to put Florida up 2-0 at 16:10 of the first.
“You get them to the net, chances come,” Bjugstad said. “I think we did well in Washington around the net. That’s where the goals are coming from, just getting them to the net and creating traffic. We’ve got to continue to do that. There are some positives from this game.”
Entering his second season on Florida’s top line, Bjugstad started the night at as the team’s leader in plus-minus (4). And, against Detroit, he was a plus-player once again, finishing with a goal, an assist and a plus-one rating. Through six games, he has two goals and one assist.
4. HOFFMAN’S HEROICS
When the Panthers needed a hero in the third period, Hoffman stepped up.
With the goaltender pulled and the extra attacker on the ice, the 28-year-old winger put the rubber on net, slipping the puck between Howard’s pads to tie the game at three with 1:16 left in regulation and sending the Cats to already their fourth overtime through six games this season.
“Late in a game like that, it’s usually a flukey one that happens to tie games up,” said Hoffman, who has registered two goals and two assists this season. “You don’t see too many passing plays late in a game like that… I just tried to throw one on net, and I don’t think he saw it.”
Like Boughner, Hoffman believes the Panthers need to clean up their second periods.
“I think it’s been our second periods in almost every game,” he said. “We come out strong, come away with a lead, but we seem to let it slip a little bit in the second period. We can have our foot on the gas, but maybe we’re just letting up a little bit too much in the second. The other team’s making their push that they need to. We just haven’t been able to manage it so far.”
5. JOVO COP RETURNS
Jovo Cop was back on patrol on Saturday night at BB&T Center.
As part of the organization’s ongoing “Legacy Saturdays” promotion, the Panthers honored former captain Ed Jovanovski prior to puck drop. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1994 NHL Draft, Jovanovski enjoyed a highlight video and a very warm welcome from the BB&T Center crowd.
“It’s humbling,” Jovanovski said of the experience. “I want to thank the organization for taking this time and recognizing the guys. For me, I got to have my kids here, so they got to see it. I’m excited. It’s good to see what [the Panthers] are up to.”
Jovanovski, who helped the Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, appeared in 362 over two separate stints in South Florida, recording 102 of his 500 career points in a Cats uniform. He left the game following the 2013-14 season, but has remained in nearby Boca Raton, serving as one of the team’s prominent local alumni.
“I’m happy to call [Florida] home,” he said.
You can find the full list of upcoming “Legacy Saturdays” appearances HERE.