Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes Recap | 03/14/24

Bobrovsky makes the save on Martinook's shot. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Florida played Carolina, things were scoreless for nearly all of regulation. Aho got the only goal with just 16 seconds on the clock in the 3rd period. It was a heartbreaker loss off of what was a good effort from the Cats. Thursday night’s game was not a repeat; Florida struggled to exit their zone all night, played the entire game a step behind, and just looked off as a team. The middle two forward lines were essentially put into a blender as both Bennett and Rodrigues were out and labeled as day-to-day. Lundell moved up to center Tkachuk’s line, Luostrainen moved to center the 3rd line with Cousins and Okposo, and Gadjovich was back into the lineup on the 4th line. Ekblad was also still out and isn’t expected back until late March or early April, so Mahura filled in on the 3rd defensive pairing with Kulikov while Ekman-Larsson moved up to play with Forsling. Carolina had all the momentum after the first 10 minutes of the opening period and got the 0-4 win over the Cats. 

Line Chemistry:

With 3 starters out, the lines were all over the place. The result was a lot of sloppy-looking play from the Panthers, with missed passes, missed plays, and timing being completely off. Florida was a beat behind after a solid start to the game, where they got the first offensive pressure and the first 6 SOG. Luostarinen still had a good game and looked good at center, but he’s not been there for most of the season and hasn’t played much with Cousins or Okposo. Lundell slid up to play with Tkachuk and Verhaeghe, but they weren’t able to produce much o-zone time, the majority of Tkachuk and Verhaeghe’s shots coming on the power play. Barkov’s line fared better, with Tarasenko now having three games under his belt before this one. The Stenlund line also was decently effective, with Stenlund, Lomberg, and Gadjovich having played together for a good part of the season. Overall, it was a very disappointing offensive game for the Panthers, with hardly any time spent outside their zone or the neutral zone. The puck management was well below the Florida average, as was the shooting; The Panthers ended the night with just 21 SOG and didn’t hold the advantage in the faceoff dot, only winning 23 faceoffs to Carolina’s 30.

PK Still the Best in the NHL:

The Florida penalty kill was the best in the NHL on the road, and Thursday proved it again. The offense was non-existent, but with all the penalties Florida took, the PK came up big to keep special teams as a non-factor for Carolina. They even got a couple of short-handed chances as well to get some type of offensive pressure on the Hurricanes. The PK put the pressure on Carolina and did a great job of boxing them out while forcing shots from other areas of the ice. Florida held the Hurricanes to just 2 shots in the slot and four right in front of the net, all of which Bob saved. While the 5v5 play was looking just as dismal as it did against Dallas on Tuesday, Cats fans can at least be happy that the PK hadn’t dipped in quality despite it missing players.

Penalties and Hot Tempers:

It’s no secret that the Panthers get into more than their fair share of fights. The players are all very quick to go defend one of their own if they think there’s been foul play from the opposition. In the first meeting with Carolina, things got very heated and feisty, with a major fight breaking out between both teams after the buzzer had sounded, ending the game and the Panthers refusing to leave the ice. There’s no love lost, and Thursday night only highlighted that more. There was shoving, chirping, and some type of fighting after the majority of the whistles. Tkachuk got shoved into the Florida bench during one of the scrums with Necas in the 2nd period after both players had slashed each other. The Cats ended the game with 18 minutes in penalties, and the Hurricanes had 14. Each team had at leasone 1 double minor called when other penalties got given out, so neither side got a 4-minute power play. Mahura was the biggest offender for the Panthers, racking up 10 minutes in penalties, including a double minor in the 3rd period. What little momentum Florida might’ve gained was killed constantly by dealing with a revolving door of players heading to the box. There were plenty of fights and scraps during the game, but the refs at no point called anyone for a 5 minute major for fighting. If these two teams meet in the postseason, expect players to be hot-tempered, quick to fight & chirp, and a lot of special teams in the resulting penalties. Florida looks to bounce back on Saturday against Tampa Bay. The last time these two teams played it was one of the most dominant performances of the season by the Cats to take a 9-2 win.

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