After hat tricks, overtime madness and positives from a backup goaltender, the Florida Panthers have been able to put goals on the scoreboard, while also keeping their defensive energy at a level everyone is content with.
Game one was a night the Panthers would need to recover quickly from, following a dreadful ending. The main matchup of the game was between Florida’s winger Jonathan Huberdeau and Nashville’s winger Filip Forsberg, both credited with five points. Huberdeau grabbed his first career hat trick while also assisting on the other two Panther goals.
With 2:06 left in the third period, Florida was leading Nashville 5-4. After a missed challenge call from Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville, Florida would have to kill a two-minute penalty for a bench minor. With Nashville emptying their net for all kinds of pressure, Predators center Matt Duchene struck gold with 57 seconds left in regulation to force extra time.
Late in overtime, with lots of confusion from Florida’s end, Forsberg jumped on the ice at the right time to secure a breakaway goal and the win with a final score of 6-5, ending a huge last-minute comeback for Nashville.
“I’m happy to get it out of the way, first [hat trick], but it would have been just nice to get a win tonight,” Huberdeau said, with lots of common sense coming out of his post-game interview.
If Huberdeau can do everything he can to help secure another win for his team, surely he should be able to feel confident about the result of the game, which could’ve been a big win. Now, after losing late, Florida was looking for quick redemption on Friday.
In game No. 2, it was Chris Driedger filling in for Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes. The Predators would be the ones to get on the board early, with winger Colton Sissons converting on Nashville’s second shot of the game. Even with early momentum, the Panthers came out of the first intermission with a different mindset, especially from Captain Aleksander Barkov and his wingman Carter Verhaeghe. Both Barkov and Verhaeghe would earn one goal and an assist each.
Friday night’s game featured a goaltender battle between Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Florida’s Driedger. Both backstops had a stellar night, Rinne saving 34-of-36 and Driedger 24-of-25. The Panthers would ultimately get their earned redemption with a final score of 2-1.
“I feel good. I’m just trying to approach every game in the same way. I’ve got my routine now,” Driedger said. “… For now, it seems to be getting me in the place where I need to be.”
Star of the Series: C Aleksander Barkov (2G, 2A)
Barkov was stunning for Florida against Nashville. Not only did he get help from Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair, but he also hit high on the Panthers’ power play with his assist to alternate captain Aaron Ekblad while also scoring himself on the PP. Once again, the combination of Florida’s speed matched perfectly with Barkov’s aggressive playing style, as he showed one of the many reasons his team garnered the points they rightfully earned.