The Florida Panthers finally felt their frustrations bubble up on the road on Sunday. Losing to the Seattle Kraken — an expansion team with the third-worst record in the league — Andrew Brunette called their effort, especially at the start of the games during this five-game road trip, “unacceptable.”
He partially took it upon himself to find a solution, so he rearranged the Panthers’ lines and found some results with three goals in the first period. There will still be plenty to take from the finale of its longest road trip of the season yet, but Florida will return to Sunrise with a winning record on the trip after a 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets in Canada on Tuesday.
The Panthers had two goals and an assist from left winger Mason Marchment in the first period, while their revamped third line – featuring Marchment, rookie center Anton Lundell and forward Sam Reinhart – set the tone for the attack. Still, they let the Jets answer each of those goals, leading 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in the first 23:30 before striker Carter Verhaeghe finally buried Winnipeg for good with a game-winning goal with 10 :18 left in the final. second period.
The win was only Florida’s fifth in the last 16 on the road, but the Panthers (29-9-5) mostly played the kind of game they were looking for outdoors, taking an early lead and eventually beating an overmatched opponent with their depth.
The Jets (17-15-7) defeated Florida 14-10 in the first period and then the Panthers beat them 22-21 the rest of the way with a massive 26-12 lead in 5-on-5 scoring opportunities. While it was an atypical road test with just 250 in attendance at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Center due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a necessary win for Florida after Sunday’s frustrating loss in Seattle.
After the upset loss, the Panthers made changes to three of their four lines. Winger Maxim Mamin joined Verhaeghe and star center Aleksander Barkov on the top line, Reinhart fell from front line to third to join Marchment and Lundell, and right Owen Tippett joined center Eetu Luostarinen and left wing Ryan Lomberg on the fourth. Although the Jets controlled possession during the first period, the changes paid off immediately: Florida generated 11 scoring opportunities and six risky opportunities, and the third-line dominated, scoring all three of Florida’s goals in the first period in Manitoba.
At 4:13 their third line was on the ice in the first period, the Panthers defeated Winnipeg 6-0, leading 5-0 in scoring chances and a 4-0 lead in shots on target to beat the Jets, 3-0.
Of course, the first 24 minutes were far from perfect. Winnipeg attempted 22 shots in the first period, beating star goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky three times in their first 17 shots on goal, including once after a particularly bad defensive failure, leaving Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois all alone in front of goal to keep the score knots at 3-3 with 16:30 left in the second.
Just over six minutes later, Verhaeghe came through with the answer Florida needed. Star defender Aaron Ekblad took a limp shot from the point as Verhaeghe roamed the net to score the rebound. Bennett filled the lead with 7:50 left in the third period, Bobrovsky stopped the last 18 shots he faced and the Panthers wrapped up their first winning road trip since the first month of the season.
This story was originally published January 25, 2022 22:28.