SUNRISE: Two days after losing 7-3 in Boston, the Panthers dropped their second game in a row to the New Jersey Devils 4-2 at FLA Live Arena.
The visiting Devils were able to snap their six game losing streak, while the Panthers have dropped three of their last four games at home.
Here’s tonight’s takeaways:
Eric Staal scores in consecutive games
This December has been a good one for Eric Staal.
The veteran forward has tallied 8 points in 11 games this month. In the 16 previous games, he failed to get a single point on the scoresheet.
After signing with the team towards the end of October, the Panthers have had to rely on his services frequently with all the injuries they have suffered. It was a rough start to his Panthers career, however his recent production in the stat column has been fairly consistent heading into the holiday break
Florida gets Anton Lundell back
The 21-year-old center has missed the last nine games due to a non-COVID illness. Tonight was the first game Lundell has played since Dec. 1 in Vancouver.
The Finn didn’t seem to have any issue jumping back into the flow of things tonight. He played 14 minutes and was able to get on the scoresheet with an assist on Eetu Luostarinen’s goal.
“[It] felt great, it’s been a really long time. Tough time to be out,” Lundell said. “I’m finally happy that I’m able to join the team.”
He was also penalized with his first career NHL fight, though Lundell wasn’t sure if he’d count it as a tilt.
“I don’t know if it counts as a fight or a wrestling match but whatever,” he added.
Mackenzie Blackwood flipped the script of the game with key saves in the third
The Devils goaltender ended the night with 34 saves on 36 shots.
The Panthers really peppered him around the front of goal, however he stood tall to keep it a one goal game when the Devils were trailing 2-1.
He was able to make a flashy glove save on Ryan Lomberg in front of his goal. If that went in, the Panthers would have taken a two goal lead.
Less than a minute after that big save, the Devils went the other way and tied the game of of Jesper Bratt’s second goal of the game.
With the Panthers down 3-2, they pulled the goalie for an extra attacker in the dying minutes of the third. The Cats had chances in high-scoring areas, but Blackwood slammed the door and the Devils put away the game with an empty netter.
Sam Bennett’s puck control game was on full display
A big standout for me tonight was Sam Bennett’s composure on the puck.
As the Panthers moved up the ice in transition, Bennett was really good at weaving around the Devil’s players to open up the ice.
When Eetu Luostarinen scored to put the Panthers up 2-1 in the second, Bennett diced through the neutral zone, chipped the puck to himself on the boards, avoided a check and spun into open ice to hit a streaking Luostarinen.
A huge part of Bennett’s game is his skating ability with the puck. That was evident tonight.
Eetu Luostarinen gets one goal closer to surpassing his career-high
It’s been a sort of breakout year for 24-year-old Eetu Luostarinen.
He played the majority of last season as the fourth line center, which meant his ice time wasn’t ideal to showcase his skills.
This season he was pushed up to the top-9 as a winger. With the increased ice time and role on the team, Luostarinen has shined.
Last year, he finished the season with 9 goals in 78 games. In his 34th game of this season, Luostarinen buried his 8th.
He’s just one goal away from equaling his career-high goal total and we aren’t at the halfway point of the season yet. Luostarinen is on pace to shatter last year’s goal total.