The Florida Panthers kicked off their regular season tonight with a game against the New York Islanders. The puck dropped in New York at 7:30 PM, and that means hockey season for the Cats is officially underway.
The game was an exciting debut for several new Panthers players, and a taste of what they will bring to the team throughout the season. Tkachuk, namely, was impressive, seeming to be everywhere on the ice and causing a disruption to the Islanders wherever he went.
The first period began with a bang; the Panthers got a power play opportunity only 22 seconds into the game. There were a few good looks, however, they failed to convert any of those chances to a goal. About 6 minutes later, the Islanders had their chance at a power play. The Cats penalty kill looked good, and most of the power play took place down at the Islanders end of the ice for a few shorthanded goal attempts. After that, it seemed like the Islanders woke up and the Panthers took a nap. With less than 4 minutes to play, there was a double penalty, leading to some 4-on-4 hockey. The Islanders dominated in that, maintaining control of the puck for most of the rest of the period. Bobrovsky was tested but came up big, keeping the game scoreless after 20.
The second period rolled around and brought a few more power play chances for the Panthers. Tkachuk almost had his first goal as a Cat, but by some miraculous intervention the puck stayed out of the net. That didn’t slow things down for the Panthers though, who finally scored the first goal of the game: a redirection from Eetu Luostarinen assisted by Gudas and White. This goal seemed to wake the panthers up, and they began to play with more ferocity. The second period ended in the middle of their 4th power play of the night, leaving hope in another goal on the near horizon if they could finally cash in on the man advantage.
By the third period, things had heated up. The Panthers failed to convert on their fourth power play of the night, but the Islanders took advantage when given a second chance. They scored on their second man advantage of the night, bringing the score 1-1. Not to be outdone, less than 30 seconds later, the Panthers scored again: a wraparound goal by Patric Hornqvist after a rebound given up by Sorokin from Lomberg’s shot. Shortly after, the Panthers were presented with a 5th power play opportunity. It seems like the Panthers power play picked up where it left off in the post-season: unable to score. The Islanders got another chance at redemption when Balcers was sent to the sin bin for hooking, but the Panthers penalty kill came up strong for this one. Sorokin left the net with less than 2 minutes to play in an attempt to let the Islanders tie it up. This backfired and Tkachuk got his first goal as a Panther, bringing the score to 3-1. This was well-deserved after the work he put in on his first game as a Cat. In a few words, phenomenal effort from the new acquisition.
All in all, the game was a great launching point for the Panthers this season. It gave a glimpse at what to work on- namely the power play, and a peek and what the newbies have to offer.
The Panthers next game is on Saturday, October 15 at 1 PM against the Buffalo Sabres.