If it wasn’t for third-period comebacks, the Florida Panthers would have been staring at a 1-5-0 record to start the season after their most recent three-game road trip. However, they survived the week by earning four of a possible six points in those games with 1-0-2 record. Thanks to some third period magic, they rallied in each game, with six of their ten goals scored in the final period.
Oct. 11 – Panthers Lose 3-2 in Shootout to Sabres
After losing at home to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 on Oct. 8, the Panthers were put through a very challenging practice by head coach Joel Quenneville that focused on skating.
They then opened their road trip against the Buffalo Sabres and outshot Buffalo 43-32 on the game but trailed 2-0 early in the third before Evgenii Dadonov cut the Sabres’ lead in half. After pulling goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the extra attacker, Mike Hoffman used his trademark wrist shots to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining to force overtime and earn a much-needed point in the standings. After a scoreless overtime, the Panthers lost in the shootout.
“It’s a huge point for us,” Bobrovsky told reporters afterward. “Obviously, we could clean up some things, but I thought the boys stepped up and showed character.”
Oct. 12 – Panthers Lose 3-2 to Islanders in Another Shootout
After the Sabres game, the Panthers faced the same result against the New York Islanders on Oct. 12. In their first back-to-back games of the season, they lost in another shootout after Dadonov tied the game with his third goal of the season. He scored with just over six minutes left in the third.
Sam Montembeault, making his first start of the season, stopped 26 of 28 shots to help the Panthers gain another point in the standings. Denis Malgin, who was scratched for the second and third games, opened the scoring in the first period. It was the first time the Panthers had scored a goal in the opening period.
Oct. 14 – Panthers Rally from 4-1 Deficit to Defeat Devils
The Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak with an impressive comeback win against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 14. After falling behind 4-1 to the winless Devils, they rattled off five unanswered goals to close out their three-game road trip with a 6-4 win.
Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari, a pair of offseason free agent signings, who were brought in to provide depth scoring, paid dividends in the comeback. Connolly scored a pair of goals in the second period, including a key goal with only eight seconds remaining in the period to make it 4-3. After defenseman MacKenzie Weegar tied the score at four, Acciari scored the game-winning goal to give the Panthers a victory to end their road trip.
Weegar has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers and leads the defensive corps with two goals. His strong play earned him a promotion to the top pairing with Aaron Ekblad. The duo is starting to find their chemistry and is helping solidify a defense that needs to improve on last season, after finishing 28th in goals against.
After the first six games of the season, the Panthers have six points, with a 2-2-2 record despite sub-par production from captain Aleksander Barkov and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Barkov, who won the Lady Byng Trophy last season, has yet to score a goal, while Bobrovsky has a .870 save percentage and a 3.89 goals-against average through five games.
The Panthers will need more from both players with three very challenging games coming up against the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins before they take a road trip to western Canada in late October.