Cary, NC — First place in the Central/Discovery division was on the line as both teams were 1 point behind the idle Tampa Bay Lightning.
Though, after falling behind by 2 goals in the first, the Florida Panthers clawed back for a 4-3 win in overtime—handing the Canes their first loss on home ice.
Staal, Aho Score Within 22 Seconds
The Canes knew the game was going to be tight as Florida has been very good the first month of the season as have the Canes. Coach Rod Brind’Amour started Alex Nedeljkovic in goal as the Canes are in the midst of 5 games over an 8-day span and need both goalies to be “fresh.”
Petr Mrazek (who had surgery on his right hand) has been skating for a few days now and while there is no official word on when he might return, thumb injuries as a general rule need 6-8 weeks. Mrazek doesn’t fit in the definition of “general” as he wants back as soon as possible but isn’t going to come back too early and be a liability.
The game was indeed tight at the beginning with both Ned and Panthers goalie, Chris Driedger both playing very strong. It wasn’t until late in the period that the Canes first hit the back of the net.
Jordan Staal and Andrei Svechnikov were battling with Panther defenders along the near half boards when Jordo knocked the puck loose, sending it to Warren Foegele up high. Jordo’s job is to have his big body go to the net for creating traffic but Foegs saw the big man was open so he returned the pass to Staal. Jordo had a stride on All-Star Aaron Ekblad with MacKensie Weegar closing in from the slot.
Ekbald tomahawked his stick on Staal’s with Jordo not only muscling out a shot but picking the far upper corner for a highlight reel goal. Just 22 seconds later the Canes went up by 2 as Sebastian Aho and Brock McGinn won the scrum in the far corner with Ginner taking a stride along the boards then passed up to Brett Pesce on the right point.
As Pesch settled the puck, Fishy went to the mid-slot area. Pesch sent a hard wrister that Fishy deflected downward that bounced in the net for a 2-0 lead late in the period.
Panthers Start Clawing
The Panthers are a very good team led by future Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville and the Canes knew the Cats would come out scratching their way back in the game.
The game was a north-south game with shifts getting shorter as the game went on as each was a sprint to the far end. At the 10:15 mark, Foegs got called for hooking, giving the Panthers their second penalty. The Canes’ man-down defense was doing a good job of clearing the puck deep to the Cats’ end.
After one clear, the defense got caught napping in center ice as Keith Yandle had the puck deep in the Cats end, Jonathan Huberdeau was in the neutral zone just above the Canes blue line, raised his stick like a wide receiver in football, with Yandle flinging the puck 80’ right on the tape.
Huberdeau wasted no time skating hard to the goal and just as Pesce was closing in, took a slap shot just above the near faceoff dot that found the far upper corner that seemed to fool Ned. Svech got called for what appeared to be a weak hooking call two minutes later that Roddy voiced an opinion that differed with the refs’.
Just seeing Roddy’s reaction was more than an incentive for the man-down defense to play a little tighter. After the successful kill, the Canes woke up in the period as their had play tapered off from the first coming up with a better shot selection, tighter forechecking but no additional goals.
Trocheck Scores Against Former Team
Early in the third, Svech tried a fancy button hook but had the puck stripped away. Patric Hornqvist passed up to Huberdeau who used his speed to make the entry into the Canes end.
Pesce had excellent positioning forcing Huberdeau to stay wide left in the faceoff circle. Huberdeau spun around making a beautiful back hand pass right on to the stick of Alex Wennberg who beat Brady Skjei for a pretty tip in tying the game. A little over the 12-minute mark, Skjei settled the puck behind Ned’s net then made a clearing pass to Jordan Martinook in the neutral zone.
Marty couldn’t settle or control the pass allowing Ryan Lomberg to steal it and pass over to rookie Juho Lammikko to go in the Canes end. Skjei had Lammikko covered, forcing him to stay out of the slot but Lammikko got a back hander off that slid under Ned’s pads that is a goal that just shouldn’t happen.
The Canes needed a powerplay goal to get back in the game which came at the 13:39 mark. Ginner was the lone Canes player entering the Cat’s zone dumping the puck to the back boards. In typical Ginner play, followed the puck but had his stick held for a Panther penalty. Jordo won the faceoff drawing it back to Dougie Hamilton up high, quickly passed to Svech 15 ‘ above the circle.
Svech surveyed the crease area, saw Jordo battling his defender, eyed Jordo but made a slick pass to Vincent Trocheck to the left of the goal and put enough zip on the pass that all Troch needed was to angle his stick just so that it tipped in over the goalie’s right shoulder to tie the game. With that goal, Trocheck has now scored against every team in the NHL. The Canes streak of winning games in extra time came to a quick end.
While the Canes had their opportunities in the overtime with 3 solid shots, Aleksander Barkov blocked a pass by Jake Gardiner then quickly passed up to Huberdeau who jetted his way 120’ stickhandling left, right, left, then with Ned trying to poke check the puck, sliding in the game-winner with a backhander. The Canes did get a point out of the contest which they might be grateful but couldn’t be happy with. First loss after having a 2 goal lead, first loss at home, first loss in extra time and not getting two points.
The next game is Friday against the surprisingly improved Chicago Blackhawks.
All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.