Florida Panthers Deep Dive Recap: 04/09-13/2024

Bobrovsky making a save during the second period. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Florida returned home after a mixed bag of a final road trip that saw them lose three out of the four games. The last four games would get to be played at home with Ottawa, Columbus, and Buffalo this week, and the final game of the regular season against Toronto on Tuesday. While the Panthers weren’t playing playoff-caliber teams this week, these were good building games for heading into the playoffs to bring the confidence level up and iron out final kinks. The Cats looked more solid this week and like the team fans have come to expect to see. Florida clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs regardless of whether they finish second or win the division. They control their playoff destiny that much, but Boston has a game in hand and is one point ahead of the Panthers.

Ottawa Senators:

For the second time in three games Florida faced off with Ottawa, the last game ended in a 6-0 shutout win for the Cats. This time around, Stolarz got the start, and Korpisalo was back in the net for the Senators. The lines were mostly the same for the Cats, with the fourth line rotating in Gadjovich-Stenlund-Lomberg. Ekman-Larsson was out for a rest day, which adjusted the defensive pairings, putting Forsling-Montour, Mikkola-Kulikov, and Mahura-Balinskis together. Florida moved into the o-zone first but didn’t hold it for any significant time, with Stolarz making a save on a Senators’ shot. It didn’t take long for a fight to break out as at 17:40, Gadjovich and MacEwen went after each other, having had a conversation during warmups; they each got five minutes for fighting. Following the fight things continued to go back and forth on the ice before Lundell made a steal and got a shot toward the net that Korpisalo saved. Stolarzr returned the favor, using his big frame to swallow up the puck from an Ottawa shot. The fighting hadn’t gotten out of either team’s system as Mikkola and Greig got into a fight at 13:09. Mikkola’s helmet got knocked off, and they eventually ended up on the ice with five-minute majors for both, and an extra roughing penalty for Greig. Barkov, Tarasenko, Forsling twice, and Bennett all got shots toward the net but they got saved or went wide during the power play. Stolarz made a couple of great saves on an initial shot and a rebound chance before Montour had his shot saved. Zub got called for high sticking, sending the Panthers back on the power play 10:17 into the period. Tarasenko and Montour had their shots blocked, Reinhart’s got deflected wide, and the Cats couldn’t get a loose puck in the crease to the back of the net. However, a great read from Stolarz had him sending a stretch pass to Lundell that caught Ottawa in the middle of a line change and allowed Lundell to shoot to score for the 1-0 lead with 7:58 to play. Kulikov then got called for interference, sending Ottawa to their first power play of the night. The Panthers did a good job of boxing the Senators out before Stenlund cleared the zone. Barkov nearly got a goal off an odd bounce off the glass and Reinhart had his short-handed chance saved before the penalty was killed off. Mikkola missed a shot chance, but Cousins came in right behind him to shoot the loose puck and made it 2-0 Florida. Since returning to the second line with Bennett and Tkachuk there’s been an increase in effectiveness of that line as well as goal scoring. The Senators made an offensive push, with Stolarz making a save, Barkov blocking a shot, and then Tarasenko making a sliding block only to get up quickly to steal it. The resulting shot got saved but that was a great transition play from Tarasenko turning defense into offense. Mahura got called for tripping with 1:56 to play. Florida cleared the zone first, Stolarz made a save, Luostarinen blocked a shot and then sent the puck in deep for Stenlund, who chewed up the clock in the o-zone along the boards. Another Florida short-handed chance got saved and Stolarz made a blocker save as time ran out in the first period, a 2-0 lead for the Panthers at the end of the opening 20 minutes.

The Cats killed off the final seconds of the PP to open the second period. However, Ottawa held the O-zone following the conclusion of the PP. Rodrigues got interfered with, which allowed the Senators to get a dangerous shot off that ended up hitting the post. With Ottawa being more aggressive in the second period, Tarasenko and Mikkola blocked shots, followed by Stolarz making a cover save with 17:46 to play. Forsling broke up a zone entry attempt before the Panthers finally got a SOG from Lundell that got kicked saved. Tkachuk’s wraparound attempt went wide before Stolarz made a good glove save. At 14:16, an altercation broke out in the corner of Florida’s zone after Pinto took a swing at Stolarz. Bennett was quick to go after him followed by the rest of the team – no penalties were handed out. Forsling and Gadjovich both got shots toward the net but they got blocked. Things settled into a back-and-forth at the midway point with both teams getting quick shots off before having to go defend their zone. Stolarz then made two great saves before Mikkola blocked a shot, followed by Bennett’s shot going high. Balinskis made two great defensive plays by blocking a centering pass and breaking up an Ottawa play. Branstrom held Lundell down to the ice for an extended period of time, which led to the Panthers going after him for it. Branstrom got called for rouging with 2:51 left in the period. The Senators were more aggressive on the PK this time around, and Montour had to break up a short-handed chance. Tkachuk’s shot went wide and the penalty got killed; the Panthers didn’t get much going against the more aggressive Ottawa PK. At the end of two periods, it was still a 2-0 lead for the Cats. 

It was a quick high-sticking call on Rodrigues to send Ottawa to their third PP with 19:33 to go in the period. The Panthers blocked a shot, but then Montour got taken down by Brady Tkachuk, leading to booing from fans who were unhappy with B. Tkachuk and the lack of call. Barkov and Reinhart got a shorty chance that got saved and the penalty got killed off. In three power plays for the Senators, the Panthers only allowed one SOG. Bennett got tripped with no call and Cousins got taken down by Sanderson with no call. Stolarz made a robbing save on Brady Tkachuk by pinching the puck between his pads. Rodrigues’ shot got glove saved, Mikkola’s got knocked away, and Cousins’ shot got saved. In the final period, HC Paul Maurice was trying to even out the ice time because of all the special teams. Stolarz made another big save on Brady Tkachuk as the Panthers are leaving him too much space to take shots from. Bennett’s shot got saved, and Rodrigues got a chance off Luostarinen, forcing a turnover. At the midway point, both teams have had shot chances but it was mostly back and forth. Kelly got called for hooking with 7:22 to play. Barkov got two shots off, Montour had one, and Luostarinen had two chances but none converted into a third goal. Luostarinen also used a great stick check to stop a Pinto shorty chance. Barkov got a chance off a stea, Tarasenko had his shot saved, and Mikkola’s got blocked. Rodrigues made a fantastic defensive play blocking a shot followed by Stolarz making two saves. Ottawa pulled Korpisalo with 3:13 to play. Stolarz made another robbing save, this time on Pinto, where he trapped the puck under himself with 2:48 left in the period. A final penalty was called on Brady Tkachuk for high-sticking with 2:02 on the clock. Tarasenko and Reinhart had their shots saved, Stolarz made a save on a shorty chance, and then Luostarinen had his chance stopped as Ottawa killed the penalty. Time ran out, and Florida walked away with a 2-0 shutout win, and for the first time this season, the Panthers have shut out an opponent three times. 

Columbus Blue Jackets:

After a solid start to the final home stretch, Bobrovsky was back in the net with Greaves on the other side for the Blue Jackets. This game’s fourth line was Lorentz-Stenlund-Okposo, with Ekman-Larsson back on the defensive pairings. Mahura was a healthy scratch, while Balinskis played with Kulikov. Barkov’s top line started with Mikkola-Montour on the defensive side. Tkachuk wasted no time opening up the scoring, using a defenseman as a screen and a wrister shot to score just 47 seconds into the period, a 1-0 lead for the Panthers. Stenlund got a chance off a giveaway that got saved, Forsling’s shot got deflected by Barkov but it also got saved, and then Bobrovsky made a good save with 16:29 to play. Tkachuk’s shot got blocker saved, Bennett’s got glove saved, and Kulikov’s chance got saved as well. Nylander got called for holding with 11:50 to play. There was a lot of passing during the first half of the power play before the Panthers got shots from Barkov, Tarasenko, Montour, and Lundell, but no conversion. Montour got back to break up a shorty chance and OEL got the final shot that went high before the penalty got killed off. The Panthers’ defense was strong against Columbus, not giving them any room to make plays. Stenlund had his shot saved as the Cats held the o-zone. Bob made a good save with 7:37 left in the period and then Barkov made a great play through a couple of stick checks to get a shot chance for Florida that got saved. Rodrigues got a chance off a breakaway, Forsling’s got blocked, and Lorentz’ shot got tipped away. Bob made two good saves in the final four minutes before time ran out, and the Panthers left the period with a 1-0 lead. 

Tarasenko got a shot off early that got saved before Kulikov cleared a loose puck. The opening minutes went back and forth with neither side getting significant zone time. Kulikov and Forsling both got shots off but no goals, while Rodrigues got a breakaway chance that got saved. The Lundell line was excellent in creating pressure and chances while on the ice. Stenlund got called for high-sticking with 12:48 to play. The Cats cleared the zone, Lundell blocked a shot, and then the Panthers cleared the zone again. Lundell got a shorty chance that got saved followed by Forsling clearing the zone to kill the penalty. Florida was utilizing layered forechecking, which is one of the reasons why they’ve been the best forechecking team in the NHL. Kulikov had his shot deflected high, Stenlund’s got blocked, and Balinskis’ got saved. Once again, there was a loose puck in the crease, but Florida couldn’t get it across the goal line. With 8:37 to go, the Panthers made another offensive push, getting shots from Reinhart, Forsling, Mikkola, Montour, and Tkachuk, but no second goal. Bob made a massive save with 6:48 on the clock, leading to “Bob-by” chants from fans, and followed that up with another great save with 6:22 to go. The Florida pressure was leading to a number of turnovers and the Cats getting shots from OEL, Tarasenko, and Bennett that all got saved. Rodrigues’ first shot got denied but finally, on his second shot, he found the back of the net for a 2-0 lead with 2:35 left to play. Rodrigues used speed to get past the defense, and Lundell, being up with him, pulled Greaves out of the net, which left it open for Rodrigues to shoot at. It didn’t stay 2-0 for long, as a great pass from Barkov to Reinhart made it 3-0. Reinhart backed away from the traffic to find a shooting lane and a quick shot led to his 54th goal of the season with less than a minute left on the clock. Bob made a great save before time ran out, and the Panthers had a 3-0 lead going into the final period of play. 

Once again, HC Paul Maurice used the third period to even out ice time to give the heavy hitters some rest. Things went back and forth on the ice in the opening minutes but Florida was winning the board battles. Kulikov and Bennett both got shots off, but no goal conversion. Rodrigues then got tripped and went back first into the boards, followed by Forsling and Stenlund getting shots off that got blocked and saved, respectively. Bob made back-to-back-to-back saves on a trio of Blue Jackets shots with 12:15 to play. Bennett had his shot go high, Tkachuk’s got saved, and Tkachuk got taken down to the ice, leading to the fans being mad at the lack of call. Bob made a cover save with 10:01 to play. With only nine minutes left in regulation, the Panthers have only allowed Columbus five SOG. An offensive push from the Cats had Montour, OEL, Bennett, Balinskis, and Lundell all get shots off but no goals. Gaunce got called for slashing with 5:39 to play sending Florida to its second power play of the night. Barkov got two shots off, Tarasenko got one, and OEL stopped a pass that would’ve set up a shorty chance. Bob made a glove save as the power play ended, leading to more “Bob-by” chants. It wouldn’t be a Panthers game without a fight, and this one came with 3:13 on the clock between Lorentz and Malatesta. Malatesta had shoved Kulikov into Bobrovsky and sent them both into the net – no penalties got called as it wasn’t a massive fight. Tarasenko put one more goal on the board in an impressive shot he took while being cross-checked and made it 4-0 with 2:17 left to play. The final shots came from Okposo, Kulikov, and Lorentz as time ran out. For the second straight game, the Panthers had shut out their opponent, this time with a 4-0 win. Bob got his sixth shutout of the season, and the Cats hit 50 wins for just the second time ever in franchise history.

Buffalo Sabres:

Coming off back-to-back shutouts, the Panthers welcomed Buffalo into town. The last time these teams played, it went into overtime, with Florida walking away with the win. Bobrovsky was in the net for his 700th NHL game, while Luukkonen started between the pipes for the Sabers. There weren’t any lineup changes this time around, with Tarasenko’s line starting the offense with Forsling-OEL on the defense. Okposo got a shot to the net on his opening shift that got saved, Cousins’ shot got saved, Bennett’s got saved, and Forsling’s went wide. A quick shot from the point that got redirected by Jost found its way past Bob to give the Sabers a 0-1 lead with 17:01 to play. An incredible backhanded shot from Lundell got past Luukkonen to tie the game 1-1 with 14:58 to go. Tkachuk made a great pass to set up Lundell, who’s now had four goals in the last six games and 13 goals on the season. While the Tkachuk line has been aggressive with forechecking, Cousins got called for tripping with 12:03 left in the period. The power play didn’t start well for Buffalo as Stenlund made a steal and then converted that into a short-handed goal for the 2-1 lead with 11:49 in the clock. Stenlund anticipated the cross-ice pass and broke it up, he then used speed to get to the net to score his 11th goal of the year. The lead didn’t last long, though, as Florida struggled to clear their zone, and Bob ended up off balance after making a save, which allowed Quinn an open net to shoot at to tie the game 2-2 with 10:12 left in the period. Tarasenko’s been an impact player since joining the Panthers at the trade deadline, getting 13 points in 17 games, and he’s only gotten better the more ice time he’s had with the team. Balinskis had his shot deflected down into the crease, which Buffalo then cleared. Florida then got an offensive push from Bennett, Forslings, Balinskis, Rodrigues, Okposo twice, and Kulikov, but none found the back of the net. The Florida forechecking was giving Buffalo a lot of problems. Cousins got tripped by Krebs with 2:51 to play. It wasn’t an aggressive shot-heavy power play from the Cats. Only Montour got a shot off, even though they held the puck in the zone for the majority of the PP. As time wound down, things were tied 2-2 heading into the second period. 

OEL exited the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. According to HC Paul Maurice, it’s a minor thing but they’re just being cautious with the Playoffs looming. Bennett’s shot got deflected wide, Rodrigues’ two chances got blocked and saved, Okposo’s got deflected, and Montour’s got blocked. Montour then took a shot from the neutral zone that Luukkonen saved. The Sabers attempted to make a line change after icing the puck, which the Panthers caught on to and made a ruckus about to the officials. Another flurry of shots came from Forsling, Mikkola, Cousins, and Lundell, but no game-leading goal. The third line for the Cats looks playoff-ready with how they’re generating scoring chances and the puck handling. Barkov, Reinhart, and Tkachuk got a trio of shots off that got saved. Bob made a good stick save with 8:33 to play in the period. Lorentz on the wraparound got denied and the Mikkola wrister shot got saved. Buffalo finally got some pressure on the Panthers in the last seven minutes with Bob making several fantastic saves, including one on a breakaway attempt with 5:15 on the clock. Bob thought he’d saved a shot but it snuck through, thankfully, Sam Bennett was there to clear the crease and get the Panthers out of danger. Unsurprisingly, a fight then broke out between the teams with 3:06 left to go. Mikkola got called for interference on the play that set off the fight. The Sabers had more success this time, getting shots to the net and making Bobrovsky come up with a couple of massive goal-robbing saves. The big saves drew loud cheers from fans to show their appreciation. Florida eventually killed off the penalty. The final period would start with the game still tied 2-2. 

The Cats started the third period aggressively, with Tkachuk getting two shots to the net, Tarasenko with a couple of chances, Bennett with a shot, Rodrigues had one, and Kulikov got a shot off as well. Cousins took a hit to the head from Clifton, who was then assessed a match penalty and a five-minute major for an illegal check to the head with 13:56 left in regulation. The Florida PP got shots from Tkachuk, Tarasenko, Barkov, Reinhart, Lundell, Forsling, Rodrigues, and Montour throughout the five-minute power play. However, the strong Sabers’ PK did its job and killed off the penalty and got one short-handed chance. Buffalo then made a hard push into the O-zone, with Bob making several saves over the course of two minutes. The Cats responded by making an offensive pushback, with Forsling, Reinhart, Kulikov twice, and Bennett all getting shots toward the net. With just 34.9 seconds left in the period, Tuch got called for high sticking, and the Panthers got their third power play. The Cats made no significant push in the final seconds, content to hold onto the puck and send the game into overtime so that they clinch home ice for round one of the playoffs. In overtime, the game went, and Florida started it still on the power play with Barkov, Reinhart, Tkachuk, and Montour on the ice. Tkachuk’s shot got blocked, Reinhart’s hit the post, Montour’s went wide, and Bennett’s got blocked. Buffalo killed off the penalty and then made Bobrovsky make two good saves as time wound down in OT. The duo that can’t be stopped, Barkov set up Reinhart to shoot to score the game-winning goal in OT for the 3-2 win. That’s Reinhart’s 10th game-winning goal, third career OT goal, and 55th goal of the season. The Panthers close out the regular season in what could be a first-round preview against Toronto on Tuesday. 

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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