BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The Florida Panthers just concluded a 3-1 road trip with stops in Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Detroit.
After hammering the Red Wings 7-2 Friday Night at the Little Caesar’s Arena, the Panthers ran into a hot goaltender on Saturday in a 2-1 defeat as Jonathan Bernier stopped 38 shots.
After the game, Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Tough points to leave out there, you get an equalizer, you never know. We had a little push out there at the end, but not good enough.”
We’ve seen this drill plenty of times as the Panthers were unable to sweep an opponent which is unlikely to make the playoffs.
The teams I’m referring to are the Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.
On Monday Night, Florida began a three-game series at the BB&T Center vs the Dallas Stars.
Florida was supposed to open the season against the Stars on January 14-15, but the games were postponed.
Going into Monday Night’s game, the Panthers own a 5-2-1 record on home ice and have won two of their last three home games.
The Stars are the defending Western Conference Champions and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Dallas hasn’t played since February 13th, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
But this time, COVID-19 wasn’t the culprit.
Instead, the nine day layoff is because of snow that belted Texas.
How would the Panthers respond against the Dallas Stars?
The teams played an even first period as Florida outshot Dallas 11-10, but the Stars led 1-0 with a goal from Blake Comeau just 4:29 into the contest.
The second period was a totally different story.
I’ve never seen such dominance by one team in a period during my many years of covering Hockey.
The Panthers clearly took over the momentum as Dallas was out shot 29-4.
Florida’s 29 shots on goal in the frame eclipsed the previous franchise record of 28 in the second period against Washington on October 20, 2005, a 3-2 win.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin was stellar but the Panthers scored two goals and took a 2-1 lead into the intermission. The Panthers go ahead tally came from Keith Yandle as he fired the puck past Khudobin from the point at the 1:42 mark. It was an unassisted goal.
One of the spark plugs during the period was Patric Hornqvist got into a fight with John Klingberg and pummeled him. Hornqvist recorded a game-high seven shots on goal.
The Panthers and Dallas played an even third period. Florida out shot the Panthers 12-11 and added an empty net goal by Aleksander Barkov to win 3-1.
Florida out shot Dallas 52-25. The 52 shots are tied for fifth most in a game in franchise history. The most they registered is 53 on January 15, 2019 at Montreal.
Monday Night’s game was the 13th time in franchise history that the Panthers recorded 50 or more shots in a game. Florida’s 52 shots are the most by an NHL team this season.
The Panthers improved their record to 12-3-2 and climbed back into first place in the Central Division. More importantly, the Panthers are 5-0 after a loss.
The Stars dropped to 5-4-4.
But the big story of the night was the dominating second period.
Here is what the Panthers were saying when it was over.
Coach Quenneville summed up the evening and said, “The guys are coming to play each and every night, doing what we have to do. Playing right has been very noticeable…If you play hard and you play with purpose, you give your chance shift in, shift out. It was fun to watch, guys really had a lot of energy, had great speed.”
Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar talked about the second period.
“We found our legs in the second. I think we just coming at them. Give credit to the goaltender over there. He made some big saves for them and kept them in the game. I thought we really took it to them in the second.
Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger stopped 24 of 25 Dallas shots and has registered a win in his past four starts. He owns a 7-1-1 record through nine appearances this season.
Driedger offered an interesting perspective of the second period.
“It was a pleasure to watch. The guys went to work in the second. I haven’t seen a period that dominant in a long time. The guys did a great job. For me, I’m just trying to stay in it. Dobby (Dallas goaltender) was kind of standing on his head over there.”
That was putting it lightly.
Barkov has an enormous amount of respect for Anton Khudobin after the second period barrage.
“He was great last year in the playoffs. He was in a big role for Dallas to get them to the (Stanley Cup) Final. He’s doing that this season, too. He’s a great goalie.”
The loss dropped Khudobin’s record to 3-4-1. But what an effort!
The Panthers victory over Dallas improved their All-Time mark against them to 18-17-3-1.
These two squads face off Wednesday at 5 ET and again Thursday at 7 ET to conclude their three game series.
If this first contest of eight is any indication of what the next seven will look like then it figures to be a war.
The fire that keeps me going covering sporting events is what will be the next game where you’ll say this is the first time I’ve ever seen this happen?
That was the case Monday Night and until the day that I die, I hope I see many more of these.
Meanwhile, how did the Panthers respond vs Dallas?
An important win, but they know that they can’t get complacent and they have to build on every performance. This is a short season and every point matters.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.