It was Deja Vu all over again as the Florida Panthers let another third period collapse rob them of two points, this time against the Edmonton Oilers.
Panthers Collapse Late for the Second Straight Game
It probably wasn’t a game the Panthers “should” have won but the Cats managed to put themselves in a position to win late in the third. But for the second straight game, mental errors let the two points slip away.
Florida looked a step behind most of the game. But they dug deep and scored twice in a five-minute span to take a one-goal lead late in the third.
The Panthers just needed to muster four minutes of shutdown hockey and they’d be skating out of Rogers Place having stolen two points.
And to make things even easier, the Panthers were gifted a late-game power play after the Oilers unsuccessfully challenged the go-ahead goal. So now the Cats could eat away half the remaining time on the clock, making the chances of an Oilers comeback that much more improbable.
But right after they were gifted that power play, a brutal mental lapse lead to a too-many-men penalty on the Panthers. Now the Oilers were able to press instead of defend.
The collapse was in free fall mode from there. The fans at Rogers Place hadn’t even finished celebrating the game-tying goal when Leon Draisaitl and McDavid connected for a give-and-go goal to win it 22 seconds into the extra frame.
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Like the game against the St. Louis Blues, it was mental lapses that directly led to their third-period collapse.
The Panthers are kicking themselves for taking such a mindless penalty late in the game. But even after they took that penalty, the way they played that final faceoff was terrible.
All they needed to do was fall on the puck and they could have skated out of Edmonton with two points.
But what is done is done, the outcome can’t change. But that repeated lapse in focus is worrisome and something to look further into.
Is this a leadership issue? Does this go back to coaching?
Tough to say for certain but this looks to be a collective issue. Paul Maurice must ensure his players stay dialed in for a full 60. And at the other end, these are professional athletes. Repeatedly losing focus late in a game is unacceptable.
Barkov’s Absence Being Felt
Perhaps the biggest tell of what the issue has been is in the absence of their captain, Aleksander Barkov. Paul Maurice said it best after the game when asked what his team needed to find the next gear.
“Get Barkov back.”
Barkov is certainly the glue inside that dressing room. And his absence was especially felt on that game-tying goal from Edmonton. Barkov is known as one of the best face-off artists in the league. And you have to think had he been on the ice to take that draw, that the outcome of this game would have been different.
We also need to look at how much these forward lines were juggled with Barkov out. Aside from the fourth line, we hadn’t seen any of the three combinations that made up the top nine.
Usually, it’s just one line that gets shaken up with one player out, so this was odd to see. Trying to form chemistry on the fly for 75% of your forward group doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
The Panthers have little time to lick their wounds. They take the ice against the Calgary Flames tonight and will try to halt their current two-game losing skid.
It’s the highly anticipated return of Matthew Tkachuk to the team that drafted him back in 2016.
The Panthers dropped their first meeting of the season against the Flames. A 5-4 shootout loss back on November 19.
The Panthers will be looking to buck this trend of late-game collapses and put together a full 60 minutes.
Puck drop is at 9:00 pm EST.
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