The Florida Panthers displayed a lot of determination in their first goal against the Winnipeg Jets tonight.
Panthers forward Dave Bolland had to blindly shovel the puck forward just before he was slammed into the boards by Adam Pardy, leaving Derek MacKenzie to race for the puck as it cruised towards Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson. In order to create a scoring chance, MacKenzie dove forward and managed to knock the puck past Hutchinson.
You can see that impressive sequence below:
This is a critical game for both teams as Florida battles to make up a six-point gap in the Eastern Conference to earn a Wild Card spot. Winnipeg is in possession of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but the Jets only have a one-point edge over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Florida had a 2-0 edge through 40 minutes and outshot the Predators 15-4 in the third frame. What ultimately sank the Panthers was a hooking penalty from Derek MacKenzie and a slashing call against Tomas Kopecky. Nashville isn’t known for its strong power play, but Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg capitalized on those opportunities.
That was Forsberg’s 18th goal of the season. The Calder Trophy frontrunner now leads all rookies with 48 points in 53 games. He came up big again in the shootout by scoring the deciding goal in the fourth round.
With that, Nashville has now won four of its last five games to improve to 35-12-6 this season. If Anaheim loses against Tampa Bay today, then the Predators will have the best record in the NHL.
By contrast the Panthers have been struggling lately with just three wins over their last 11 games. They’re six points shy of a playoff spot and will be further behind than that if Boston beats Montreal tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Here’s an interesting stat — after 13 games, the Florida Panthers don’t have a single forward who’s averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time.
That compares to last season, when enforcer/media critic Krys Barch averaged just 5:58 in 55 games, and the season before that, when tough guy George Parros was playing a similar pugilistic role.
Tuesday against San Jose, the Panthers got two goals from its fourth line of Tomas Fleischmann, Derek MacKenzie, and Shawn Thornton in a 4-1 win over the Sharks. No Florida forward played less than 12:28 that night.
“We’ve got four lines that can play,” new coach Gerard Gallant said Wednesday, per Fox Sports Florida. “Our so-called fourth line went out and scored two goals last night. People call it our fourth line but it isn’t a fourth line and I’ll say that all year.”