OTTAWA Five takeaways from the Panthers’ 7-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday night.
1. The Panthers played a “perfect game” in the second of back-to-back games.
Coming off a 2-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, the Panthers got what they needed playing 24 hours later when seven different Panthers scored. Seven Panthers also had multipoint games as they matched their second-biggest output in a game this season.
The Panthers scored a season-high eight goals against the Anaheim Ducks at home Oct. 26. They scored seven goals for the third time this season.
The win allowed the Panthers to pull within a point of the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference with the Devils losing to the Sharks in San Jose late Tuesday. The Panthers have played two fewer games.
“There aren’t too many games this year where we can relax a little bit in the third period and roll our bench,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “It was a perfect game for us. Sometimes it’s human nature you let you foot off the gas pedal in the third period. I thought we went out in the third period and stuck to our structure and our detail. We didn’t cheat.”
The undermanned Senators played without captain Erik Karlsson after the team announced the death of Karlsson’s son Tuesday afternoon. Karlsson and his wife Melinda had announced in November she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
2. Florida goaltender James Reimer owns the Senators.
Reimer continued his domination of the Senators. Reimer made 33 saves and is now 13-5-2 against the Senators.
He gives the Panthers a great 1-2 punch with Roberto Luongo, who shut out the Canadiens on Monday. Reimer won his third start in a row and is 5-1 in his past six games. He has stopped 103 of 106 shots in his past three starts.
Reimer was at a loss for an explanation why he has had the success he’s had against the Senators.
“I don’t know. You look across the league, and there are just certain buildings where guys play well against certain teams,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the way they match up or just the way plays develop.”
He said he benefited Tuesday from another complete effort from his teammates.
“I think these last two games were pretty textbook defensively. In Montreal I thought we came out and played really well and we were rewarded and again here tonight,” he said. “Back end of a back-to-back is hard and sometimes your legs aren’t there, and so you’ve got to be mentally sharp and I thought for the most part the guys did really well.”
Getting strong play from Reimer will be critical down the stretch with the Panthers facing three more back-to-back situations, including the final two games of the regular season, April 7 at home to the Buffalo Sabres and on the road against the Boston Bruins the next day.
3. The penalty killing was perfect — again.
The Panthers killed off two Senators power plays and are now 24 for 24 on the penalty kill in their past 10 games. The franchise record for consecutive games without a power-play goal allowed is 12, set from Feb. 15 to March 10, 2017.
“Just buying in. We have a plan and all those guys who are on the PK are dedicated to it and take a lot of pride in it,” Reimer said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a 7-2 game or 1-0, when you’re out there you’re sacrificing your body and you’re doing whatever it takes. You look across all the guys who are PK they are doing a heck of a job.”
Boucher said associate coach Jack Capuano has brought a good energy to the penalty killing.
“Jack brings intensity to his meetings and he brings intensity to his practices when we get a chance to do that. They guys feed off that,” Boughner said. “It’s sort of a personal challenge to that unit. They want to rise up the standings. It’s been up and down all year, really, to be honest with you, but it’s in a good spot right now.”
4. The defense had a big night at both ends of the rink.
Panthers veteran defenseman Keith Yandle, who owns the NHL’s longest active consecutive games played streak (704), helped the attack with a goal and an assist. He made it 2-1 on a shot off the rush down the left wing at 15:56 of the first period and set up Frank Vatrano for his fifth of the season at 16:13 of the second to make it 5-2.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk also had an assist, setting up Sceviour with a shot from the point to open the scoring.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who are contributing. It starts defensively our ‘D’ are getting us the puck and there are a lot of odd-man rushes,” Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad said. “We’re all kind of on the same page. I think that’s the key difference. We played last night and so we knew we kind of had to simplify it to begin with here and I think that was the difference. The start was good and our defense was even better. We’ve got to keep rolling.
“It’s grind time for everyone.”
5. Getting contributions from four lines is a must with a playoff spot on the line.
All four lines chipped in against the Senators, and Boughner has been getting some great mileage out of a line with Jared McCann between Jamie McGinn and Vatrano. They each had a goal against the Senators. Vatrano had 11 of the line’s 20 shot attempts.
“McGinn is that hard-working, hard-nosed guy that’s first on pucks and competes hard for a big body. Vatrano’s got a great touch and is a goal scorer and McCann’s game has come a long way in the last year,” Boughner said. “Those three guys tonight had a big game. They have been doing a lot of little things throughout the night that they had success with. Good to see and that’s what we’re going to need coming down the stretch here to try and get a playoff spot. We’re going to need to roll our bench and have four lines working.”