Sports

/

ArcaMax

The Florida Panthers keep winning every which way -- even when they don't play well

David Wilson, Miami Herald on

Published in Hockey

SUNRISE, Fla. — A win like the the one the Florida Panthers pulled out Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators is the sort of luxury the best teams get to enjoy.

Paul Maurice was blunt about the way his team played in Sunrise — “We just weren’t really good,” the coach said, before admitting he “was grasping at straws” with some lineup changes in the third period — and still the Panthers were never really in danger of losing to the lowly Senators. They led for more than 48 minutes, got to overtime despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period and finally pulled out a 3-2 win with a highlight-reel goal from Anton Lundell with 3:24 left in the extra session.

With 10 wins in 11 games and the most points in the Eastern Conference, Florida has clawed victories out of just about every situation this year and added a new style of win Tuesday.

“We found a way to win,” Maurice said, “when things were not easy for us.”

The Panthers (37-15-4) got 29 shots blocked, got outshot after the first period and frittered away a 2-0 lead in the third period by coughing up a slew of breakaways.

If it wasn’t for defenseman Aaron Ekblad’s goal in the first 19 seconds and All-Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s 28 saves, Florida may well have lost to the last-place team in the Atlantic Division. Instead, the Panthers started off strong enough to limp to the finish line and then get one spectacular play in overtime to pull out another win.

The 11-game stretch is the best of the season for Florida, and the Panthers haven’t given up more than two goals in a game once during this run. Ottawa (23-27-3) flirted with busting the streak before Lundell ended the game with a no-angle shot in the extra five-minute period.

Maurice went with Lundell uncharacterstically early in overtime, impressed by one back-checking play he made to break up a potential Senators scoring chance in the third period. In a game sorely lacking memorable moments, the hustle stood out to Maurice, so he sent Lundell out with defenseman Brandon Montour and star winger Matthew Tkachuk for the second shift of overtime and the 22-year-old Finn rewarded him.

Lundell barreled down the left side of the ice, glided from the boards to the net and hesitated for just a beat longer than Joonas Korpisalo expected. The Ottawa goaltender leaned a bit out of the crease to try to cut off a potential pass to Montour, who scored his fourth goal of the season in the second period, and Lundell shot into the newly open gap to win the game.

 

The crowd of 19,000 exploded. Lundell said it was one of his most memorable moments yet at Amerant Bank Arena.

“You try to do everything you can as well through the whole game so you’re showing that you’re good in that game,” the forward said.

The win vaulted the Panthers back past the Bruins and to the top of the East with 26 games left in the regular season. They’re in a much different spot than they were at this time last season, when it felt like just about every night brought a must-win game.

This season, Florida can focus on just doing all it can to be ready for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs. Games like this one won’t be good enough once the postseason comes, but they can help the Panthers get ready.

On Saturday, Florida won with nine goals — no drama at all. On Tuesday, they won with two and one of those came in the first 19 seconds — they needed every second and then some to beat one of the worst teams in the NHL.

A loss would not have been the end of the world. A win isn’t much to be excited about. The Panthers will just keep going.

“Teams are going to keep coming,” Montour said. “We kept it cool. Our group’s good at living in the moment.”


©2024 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus