5 KEY TAKEAWAYS: Panthers ‘learn valuable lesson’ in Game 1 loss to Caps

SUNRISE, Florida – Unable to recover from some unusual self-inflicted injuries, the Panthers saw a 2-1 third-period lead slip through their fingers in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Capitals in Game 1 of the first round. of the Eastern Conference at the FLA Live Arena. tuesday.

“Everything they got, we kind of gave them,” Panthers defenseman said Aaron Ekblad, who returned after missing the final six weeks of the regular season with a lower-body injury. “That’s often the situation in a hockey game with mistakes. We have committed some crucial ones.

“We can all do a better job of taking care of each other and making sure these things don’t happen. Like I said, we learned a valuable lesson. This is the first of four [games], not the first of one. It’s important that we get back on the horse and take care of the rest of the series.”

With the Panthers struggling early on, the Capitals struck first when Tom Wilson sent a rebound in front Sergei Bobrovsky at the end of a power play to make it 1-0 at 3:48 of the first period.

Put the Panthers on the board and party, Sam Bennett flew down the ice and fired a wicked wrist shot past Vitek Vanecek from beyond the circles to make it 1-1 at 5:55 p.m.

Standing on his head to limit the damage for the Panthers, Bobrovsky stopped 15 of 16 shots he saw in the first 20 minutes, including 7 of 8 on shorthanded shots.

“For the most part we played a pretty good game until the third,” Bennett said. “They had a good push, and we didn’t have enough push. We had some good chances tonight, that’s for sure.”

With the momentum on their side, the Panthers took their first lead of the game just 43 seconds into the second period when Claude Giroux smashed the net and tapped in a rebound to make it 2-1.

Tying the game for the Capitals, Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway after Alex Ovechkin generated a turnover at the blue line to make it 2-2 at 8:14 of the third period. Giving the lead to Washington shortly after, TJ Oshie redirected a crossing flow to make it 3-2 at 10:37.

With 48.2 seconds left in regulation, Lars Eller connected on a long empty net to make it 4-2.

“I think we had to realize it was going to be tough,” Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. “We didn’t have many difficult games. We didn’t handle the situation as well as we would have liked and we weren’t as sharp as we wanted. We lost some energy . It was a good eye-opener. This is playoff hockey.”

Looking to shoot even in the series, the Panthers will host the Capitals for Game 2 on Thursday.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s loss at Sunrise…


Bennett continues to live up to his reputation in the playoffs. Known as the “Sam of the playoffs” for good reason, the grizzled forward ended the game late in the first period when he fired a home shot to bring the Panthers to the board and carry the score at 1-1.

Video: [email protected], GM1: Bennett wraps the puck in the slot, snaps it

“We’re always in good spirits,” Bennett said. “We always know what a good team we are. There’s no panic in the dressing room. Everyone is always positive. We’ll learn from this game and move on. It’s a long streak.”

The 13th goal of his playoff career, Bennett has six points (two goals, four assists) in six playoff games since joining the Panthers before last year’s trade deadline. Also bringing a physical presence, he had a team-leading eight hits against the Capitals in Game 1.


It’s always great to see time frame acquisitions do damage in the playoffs.

Putting the fans on their feet, Giroux continues with a shot from Brandon Montour and buried the ensuing rebound to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead less than a minute into the second period. Acquired from the Flyers last March, it was the 26th goal of his playoff career.

Video: [email protected], Gm1: Giroux wins the draw and scores by a backdoor

Author of 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 18 games with the Cats in the regular season, Giroux had amassed 73 points (25 goals, 48 ​​assists) in 85 playoff games with Philadelphia.

Strong in the point as always, he went 9 for 14 (64.3%) in the face-off circle in Game 1.


What we saw from Ekblad tonight bodes well for the rest of the series.

Playing in his first game since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 18 at Anaheim, the star defenseman recorded two shots on goal and two hits while skating a team-best 24:11.

“I thought he looked really good,” Brunette said. “It’s not quite where he left off, but to step in after all this time and play that kind of hockey was pretty impressive.”

Despite being limited to just 61 games, Ekblad hit new career highs in assists (42) and points (57) during the regular season, while leading the Cats in ice time per game ( 24:55).

Even after sitting for the past six weeks, he didn’t feel more uncomfortable.

“I didn’t really feel everything,” Ekblad said of the injury. “It’s a plus, that’s for sure.”


Bobrovsky certainly deserved a better result tonight.

Standing against a persistent Capitals offense, he gave up just three goals on 37 shots, including seven key shorthanded saves to keep the scoreline tight for the Cats.

For Bobrovsky, who set a franchise record with 39 regular-season wins, the loss was only his second since late February, an incredible streak in which he went 13-2-0.

Video: [email protected], Gm1: Bobrovsky manages to maintain his lead

“Great game,” said Brunette. “He kept us early. Unfortunately, in the end, we didn’t give him the chance to win a hockey game for us.”

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, all three goals against Bobrovsky tonight were on very dangerous shots.

“He made some huge saves,” Ekblad said. “It’s the Bob we like to see.”


Facing the league’s top-ranked offense in the regular season, the Capitals were able to slow down Florida’s powerful offense in tonight’s game, especially in the neutral zone.

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Panthers had just 20 5-on-5 scoring chances.

During the regular season, they were limited to 20 or fewer scoring chances in just 14 games.

“They plugged us in pretty well and we didn’t make any adjustments,” Brunette said. “We were a little slow with the puck. I thought we were a little slow all over the ice and our level of fighting wasn’t where it should be. These are your lessons.

Considering all situations, Washington finished with a 30-23 advantage on scoring chances.

“They did a good job of stopping us from going any further,” Bennett said. “We couldn’t generate the speed that we normally do in the middle. We just have to get the pucks deep and work our cycle game. That’s when we play our best. kind of made it to ourselves tonight.”

Clyde P. Johnson