Sunrise, FL – If you’re superstitious, or maybe just a little stitious like us here at Lemon City Live, then you’re probably well aware that the Panthers have won 11 of 13 home games since we started covering the team, but alas, all good things must come to an end. After tonight’s 4-2 loss vs. the Edmonton Oilers, the Cats have only five home games remaining on the schedule, and seven of the next eight are on the road. Two of those seven road games are at Ottawa, who, earlier this week, defeated Florida on home ice at the BB&T, so you know the Panthers want that revenge game. Another away game on the schedule is against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are holding down one of those coveted wildcard spots. In all, the Cats are facing three playoff teams, which includes one home and two on the road vs. 2nd seeded Boston Bruins, who they played and defeated on Thursday.
But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the Panthers played a well-contested game vs. the Oilers today. The Panthers created chances in the first period, and outshot Edmonton 15-10, but couldn’t capitalize. Aside from that, the highlight of the period came when Micheal Haley and Jujhar Khaira scrapped it out, both earning five-minute major penalties.
🚨 @Frank_Vatrano dekes goalkeeper by the blue line for unassisted empty net goal, but the oilers tie it up shortly after. @FlaPanthers & @EdmontonOilers 1-1 midway through the 2nd period. pic.twitter.com/2ElK5tnqzb
— Lemon City Live (@LemonCityLive) March 17, 2018
The Panthers turned it up a notch the 2nd period, outshooting the Oilers 16-10. The Cats scored midway through the period when newcomer Frank Vatrano deked Edmonton’s goalkeeper, Cam Talbot at the blue line, off a breakaway for an unassisted empty-net goal. However, the Oilers tied it up shortly after. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins came in uncontested on the left and five-holed Roberto Luongo, who nearly kept the puck out. With less than five minutes remaining, Florida would once again take the lead, as Vincent Trocheck scored his team-leading 28th goal of the season with a twisted wrister!
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 17, 2018
Florida entered the 3rd period up 2-1, looking like they would temporarily even up their points in the standings with the New Jersey Devils, and finish their homestand on a high note, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Panthers uncharacteristically gave up three goals in the 3rd period. It might be due to the Oilers taking a more aggressive approach and shooting at every opportunity they had. The equalizer, was a fireball top-shelfer from top-10 goal scorer, Connor McDavid for his 34th of the season. #BULLY. Luongo had some amazing saves today, including one of the sickest saves I’ve ever seen in the 2nd period, but there was nothing he, or anyone else, could do about that McDavid goal. In his postgame comments, Roberto Luongo said, “There’s a lot of important hockey ahead of us. It was a tough one tonight, but we’ve got to look ahead of us.”
— NHL (@NHL) March 17, 2018
The Panthers aren’t facing the toughest competition moving forward, but a mostly road schedule, one game being a matchup against Columbus, one the teams Florida is chasing for a wildcard spot, is sure to make the final stretch interesting. If the Cats want to make the playoffs, they absolutely have to win against non-playoff contending teams, like Ottawa and the New York Islanders. The silver lining is that the Panthers still have two games in hand on the Devils, who are only three points ahead, six if they win today. Next up, Florida travels to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Monday, March 19th.
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter