Saturday’s load of NHL games included the Panthers clash with the Hurricanes. This matchup brought together two of the top teams in the league standings so far. Hurricanes entered the game with a perfect season at 9-0-0. The Panthers have had an outstanding start as well though and have a 9-0-1 record. Both teams impressive starts should be attributed to their explosive offenses and star goaltenders. Together they have a +41 goal differential. As this season has progressed, these teams have established themselves as early favorites to make a run for the cup. Florida had just beaten the Washington Capitals a few nights ago. Meanwhile Carolina entered the game having beaten the Chicago Blackhawks before traveling to Florida.
Florida took early command and just never let up during the first period. Carolina didn’t do themselves any favors during the period as they put themselves down a man on 4 occasions. The Panthers took advantage and scored on 3 of the 4 penalties. Anthony Duclair, Frank Vatrano, and Patric Hornqvist all got their goals while on the man advantage. Florida’s rookie Anton Lundell jumped in on the fun and scored his third of the year. At long last the Hurricanes snapped out of their sleepy play late into the period. Finally getting a few shots on net and kept some pressure in their offensive zone. Before they could find their first of the game however, the horn blew and intermission began. Florida lead 4-0 at the end of the first.
Carolina swapped goalies to start the new period. Antti Raanta replaced Frederik Andersen and got to play in his second game of the season. Raanta didn’t really face too much early as the Hurricanes played a lot more aggressive. He did look sharp on the few breakaway chances the Panthers had as he shut them down. Carolina did get their first just before the halfway point when Jesper Fast fired off a quick shot from the crease. Their pressure continued, looking to cash in on more opportunities and close the gap to their opponent.
Ryan Lomberg of the Panthers received a charging penalty and game misconduct after colliding with Raanta. The puck slid slowly towards Raanta and he came way out to play it, Lomberg was chasing it down and couldn’t pull off the play quickly enough and effectively ran Raanta over. Lomberg was ejected due to this collision. Carolina got a 5 minute man advantage, but they did loose Raanta as after the hit he struggled to get up. During the 5 minutes, the Hurricanes did have a few chances but only Vincent Trochecks shot was able to find its way past Spencer Knight. Down by just 2 now, Carolina had a little more life in them as the period came to an end.
After finding their legs and gaining some confidence the Hurricanes came out looking to find a couple and equalize the game. They had some impressive looks on net early on but a few blocked shots and Knight standing on his head meant they couldn’t make anything happen. Andersen looked solid through the third period, even after being forced to return from being pulled after the first. His offense kept firing all they could but found nothing. Being down by two, the Hurricanes pulled their goalie after a timeout call with 3:17 left. In hopes of having an extra skater to find two goals before the end of the game. With that extra man they did control the puck in the offensive zone for much of the last three minutes. Duclair did finally break through the line and carried the puck right to the empty net for his second of the game. The Panthers clash with the Hurricanes ended with a great 5-2 win for the home team.
Florida knew how difficult this game would be coming in. They pounced early and took advantage of the gifts that the Hurricanes handed them. Their special teams play paved the way big time and gained them the solid lead. Their young netminder Knight made some impressive saves late in the game and kept Carolina from getting back in the game. Knight stopped an impressive 28 of 30 shots. Their real star was Duclair who picked up 4 points in the game with 2 goals and 2 assists. Even missing a few bigger names the Panthers stepped up and made a big statement against a good team. They look to carry this momentum as they head up to New York to take on the Rangers on Monday.
Carolina came in with a perfect season and fell flat on their face at the start of the game. Too many errors and bad decision cost them and put them behind the 8 ball. Fortunately for them they showed they could fight back to some degree. They did the same against Chicago a few nights ago, but Florida is a much different team than Chicago. Early game struggles cost them as they looked sharp and confident towards the end of the game. They look to bounce back to the win column in a few nights against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay Lighting.
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