Embarking upon a four-game road trip against four of the Western Conference’s top eight teams was certainly reason for the Florida Panthers to be worried. Add in that they entered Sunday’s contest against the Ducks with the lowest scoring total in the NHL, and there was even more consternation.
So imagine how good it felt for the Panthers to grab an early lead at the Honda Center. Then a two-goal lead. Then a five-goal lead. Then a 6-2 victory.
It was an onslaught, and it elicited boos from the Ducks crowd as the teams went to the locker rooms after the second period. And just as important, it gave Al Montoya a low-pressure night in goal while Roberto Luongo took the night off.
Vincent Trocheck got the trip off to a stellar start with his goal just 4:40 into the contest, smacking it past Frederik Andersen on a 2-on-1 break, courtesy of an assist from Tomas Kopecky. The Ducks retorted with a Hampus Lindholm tally 12:16 into the game, then after that, it was all Panthers.
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Just how much fortune went the visitors’ way on a warm Sunday in Southern California? Brad Boyes’ pass across the middle on a power play hit Anaheim’s Josh Manson on his skate and it went right past Jason LaBarbera to make it 5-1 with 2:41 left in the second period.
After Nick Bjugstad took the puck from the red line, sprinted around an overmatched Sami Vatanen and scored on the short side with 15:49 left in the second, Andersen parted in favor of LaBarbera in a 3-1 game.
Turns out that didn’t help the home team much.
Aaron Ekblad smacked a shot from the blue line and Jonathan Huberdeau deflected it in with 9:58 left in the second to make it 4-1, and Boyes got his fluky power-play goal to make it 5-1, with assists going to Jussi Jokinen and Brian Campbell.
Continuing the home team’s misery, and the Panthers’ fun, Bjugstad took a nifty drop pass from Boyes and hammered in a score to make it 6-1 in the third period, his second of the night.
Boyes scored his 450th career point on the goal that gave the Panthers the lead for good, just 1:23 into the second period. Huberdeau kick-started the play with a sweet diagonal pass up the ice to Bjugstad, who moved horizontally and then dropped the puck for Huberdeau. He moved it over to a streaking Boyes, and the pass hit off his skate into the net. An official review confirmed there was no kicking motion on the goal.
Montoya fended off 33 of the 35 shots the Ducks sent his way, making all of the easy plays and even a few of the great variety in his first victory as a Panther. That allowed Luongo to rest up for when the Panthers head 30 minutes north along Interstate 5 to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Montoya’s night ended on a less-spectacular note when he allowed Andrew Cogliano’s goal with 1:45 left in the contest.
▪ Ekblad scored a point in his fourth consecutive game.
▪ Fans and media alike expected overtime. Coming in to Sunday, the Ducks saw their previous five games go extra time, and the Panthers had gone to overtime six times in just 15 contests this season.
▪ Corey Perry was activated by the Ducks after missing five games with mumps.