SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers pulled through after a slow start on Friday night, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 as they improved to 16-8-2 on the season.
The Panthers ended their three game home stand winners of two straight. They’ll be away from Sunrise for about two weeks as they hit the road for the next five games.
Here’s the game takeaways.
Ekman-Larsson nets his seventh goal of the year
To put it lightly, the Panthers didn’t have a ton of juice for the first 37 minutes of the game.
After Penguins forward Reilly Smith opened the scoring 8:05 into the second, the Panthers had two power play chances to get back into the game.
Florida failed to convert on both chances and when the second opportunity came around, the home crowd let them know their discontent with the effort, showering some boos across the stadium.
The effort up to that point was lackluster to say the least, but with the Penguins leading just 1-0, it was a one bounce game.
Luckily for Florida, they got that next bounce from their top scoring defenseman.
Just seconds after Pittsburgh killed off their second power play of the night, Oliver Ekman-Larsson snuck backdoor from the point to one-hand poke in his seventh goal of the season — tying the game at 1-1.
You get seven goals as a defenseman a third of the way into the season, you’re a player. You’re a big-time player,” coach Paul Maurice said of Ekman-Larsson. “We’ve been good for him, but he’s been great for us.
With that goal, Ekman-Larsson moved into a tie with Drew Doughty and Cale Makar for second most goals by a defenseman in the NHL.
Multi-point night for Lundell
Wherever there was offense for the Panthers, Anton Lundell was somewhere near.
The 22-year-old forward was a +3 on the night, picking up assists on Florida’s first two goals.
Panthers coach Paul Maurice wasn’t shy post game when talking about his criticism of his team’s play in the second period, however he did acknowledge that Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen, who scored the winning goal, weren’t on his bad list.
“They were the guys that I didn’t swear at. All game I don’t think,” Maurice said. “Lundy was on it, and it was hard.”
While he picked up two assists, Maurice mentioned that he believes Lundell is close to flipping the switch on the goal scoring side of things.
“This guy wants to score some goals, it’s a big year for him. But he hasn’t cheated the game to do it,” Maurice added. “If he gets one he’s going to score a bunch.”
Panthers lock it down in the third
Florida was noticeably the lesser of the two teams in the second period, and Paul Maurice wasn’t pleased with their effort after 40.
Whatever was said in the locker room at the second intermission seemed to have worked — it was a different Panthers team in the third.
The lack of energy I mentioned earlier wasn’t the case in the final period of regulation. Florida came out stronger in the third.
They were quicker on pucks, more sound preventing odd-man rushes through the neutral zone and most importantly, they didn’t let much through on Sergei Bobrovksy.
Bobrovsky kept the game close in the first two periods, his teammates did the rest in the third.
“You know, he’s a good goalie and he’s going to be there every time,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I think he kept us in the game early on”
Florida gave up just five shots in the third period — three of those coming in the final 60 seconds with Pittsburgh having an extra attacker.
Bobrovsky had 22 saves in his 13th game of the season.
With 27 seconds remaining, Aleksander Barkov iced the game with an empty net goal.
Florida’s next game is Dec. 10, at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Panthers next home game is Dec. 21 against the St. Louis Blues.
Aleksander Barkov scored his ninth goal of the season — he has 25 points on the year.