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Keith Yandle Jersey

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Veteran Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle was named Third Star of the Week by the NHL this morning.

Yandle recorded multiple points in each of his three appearances last week to lead all defensemen and rank third in the NHL with 8 points (1G/7A) while helping the Panthers (10-5-5, 25 points) to a pair of wins in three contests. Yandle opened the week with three points (1G/2A) – all in the third period – to help the Panthers rally from a 4-0 third-period deficit to defeat the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins 5-4 in a shootout on November 12. It marked just the ninth time in NHL history a visiting team rallied from a four-goal third-period deficit to win. He then recorded a pair of assists in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on November 14 and three more helpers in a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night. The 33-year-old native of Boston, MA ranks sixth among blueliners with 18 points (2G/16A) in 20 games this season and has appeared in 817 consecutive regular-season games – the longest active “ironman” streak and the fifth longest in NHL history.

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid was the league’s First Star and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon was the Second Star.

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REST OF SEASON OUTLOOK AND POSITION RANK
Expect MacKenzie Weegar to be a reliable fantasy starter the rest of the season. His 61 projected fantasy points puts him at #50 behind Philippe Myers and ahead of Oscar Klefbom. He has averaged 1.27 fantasy points in his past 87 games. Our projected per game average is virtually the same. He is projected to average 1.24 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#53) is worse than his rank based on total fantasy points. MacKenzie Weegar is expected to improve on this season-to-date’s #66 fantasy position rank.

REST OF SEASON RANK (D) PROJECTION FANTASY STATS SINCE 2019
#48 Rasmus Ristolainen (78% OWN) 62 FP, 1.32 per game 108 FP, 78 gp, 1.39 per game (#82)
#49 Philippe Myers (22% OWN) 62 FP, 1.27 per game 108 FP, 78 gp, 1.39 per game (#82)
#50 MacKenzie Weegar (27% OWN) 61 FP, 1.24 per game 66 FP, 64 gp, 1.03 per game (#126)
#51 Oscar Klefbom (87% OWN) 60 FP, 1.3 per game 88 FP, 61 gp, 1.44 per game (#75)
#52 Michal Kempny (49% OWN) 60 FP, 1.27 per game 125 FP, 71 gp, 1.76 per game (#50)
These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

SIT EM ALERT: MACKENZIE WEEGAR WEEK 11 AND 12 FANTASY OUTLOOK
MacKenzie Weegar is projected for 1.07 fantasy points in one game the rest of the week in week 11 which ranks him as the #101 projected defenseman for the week and a starter for most fantasy teams. This is projected to be a below average game with fewer fantasy points than he is projected to average per game the rest of the season. He is ranked above Ryan McDonagh but behind Rasmus Ristolainen the rest of the week. Week 12 will be better based on projected rank (#57). He is projected for 3.73 fantasy points.

12/13 TO 12/15 RANK (D) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#99 Tyler Myers (19% OWN) 1.1 FP, 2 GP 0.59 FP
#100 Rasmus Ristolainen (78% OWN) 1.09 FP, 1 GP 1.32 FP
#101 MacKenzie Weegar (27% OWN) 1.07 FP, 1 GP 1.24 FP
#102 Ryan McDonagh (47% OWN) 1.07 FP, 1 GP 1.12 FP
#103 Samuel Girard (37% OWN) 1.07 FP, 1 GP 0.75 FP
12/16 TO 12/22 RANK (D) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#55 Ryan Pulock (58% OWN) 3.79 FP, 3 GP 1.26 FP
#56 Oliver Ekman-Larsson (89% OWN) 3.76 FP, 3 GP 1.17 FP
#57 MacKenzie Weegar (27% OWN) 3.73 FP, 3 GP 1.24 FP
#58 Alex Goligoski (69% OWN) 3.65 FP, 3 GP 1.14 FP
#59 Justin Holl (2% OWN) 3.63 FP, 3 GP 1.06 FP
FANTASY PROJECTIONS AND ACTUAL STATS
The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Also included are actual stats from the current and last season.

MACKENZIE WEEGAR FP PTS G A SOG BLK
Rest of ’19-20 61 18.9 5.4 13.5 82 71
– Per Game (49 Proj) 1.23 0.39 0.11 0.28 1.68 1.44
12/9 to 12/15 (1 Game) 1.07 0.37 0.10 0.26 1.58 1.41
12/16 to 12/22 (3 Games) 3.73 1.15 0.33 0.82 4.8 4.1
’19-20 Season 44.5 11 3 8 41 25
– Per Game (23 GP) 1.93 0.48 0.13 0.35 1.78 1.09
’18-20 Seasons 110 26 7 19 120 128
– Per Game (87 GP) 1.27 0.30 0.08 0.22 1.38 1.47

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Following a breakout 2018-19 season for the Florida Panthers, forward Frank Vatrano is continuing to thrive on Florida’s third line.
The 25-year-old native of Massachusetts was previously acquired from the Boston Bruins during the 2017-18 NHL season for only a third-round draft pick. As a member of the Florida Panthers, Frank Vatrano has produced consistent numbers on the offensive end, earning a permanent role on the top-nine forward unit.

The undersized winger has seemingly developed into a reliable sniper and 5-v-5 weapon for Florida. While participating in 81 regular-season games during the 2018-19 campaign, Vatrano recorded career-high marks in goals (24), assists (15), points (39), penalty minutes (38), and games played (81).

More impressively, Frank Vatrano recorded 22 even-strength goals, providing the power-play reliant Cats with a much-needed 5-v-5 goal-scoring option. Furthermore, Vatrano also developed into a dependable two-way winger on Florida’s third line, playing a proficient game on the defensive end, too.

While averaging roughly 15 minutes of ice time per game, Vatrano recorded a whopping 139 hits as well as 74 blocked shots. As well, he even registered more takeaways (33) than giveaways (30) on the season. While things didn’t necessarily work out with Vatrano’s hometown Bruins, the Panthers certainly found themselves a diamond in the rough.

Vatrano’s contributions during the 2019 NHL season earned himself a well-deserved three-year contract extension. The extension carries an annual average salary of $2.53 million per season. Considering he’s already established himself as a polished top-nine scoring weapon, GM Dale Tallon locked up “Frank the Tank” for an absurd bargain price.

The 2019-20 season has been a pretty good one for the consistent producing Vatrano. While participating in 18 games, the durable Vatrano has already recorded 6 goals and 3 assists for 9 total points, averaging approximately 0.50 points per game.

In addition, Vatrano has seemingly gained the trust of new bench boss Joel Quenneville, playing a career-high of nearly 16 minutes of ice time per game.

As well, Quenneville has given the versatile, speedy Vatrano with opportunities on the power-play and penalty kill units. Despite producing mostly during 5-v-5 action, Vatrano has already recorded one goal on the PP and one goal on the PK, thus far.

On the defensive end, Vatrano has continued his brilliance in his own zone. The lightning-quick winger has produced 16 blocked shots as well as 14 total hits, along with more takeaways (5) than giveaways (3) on the season.

Essentially, Vatrano has been a crucial component in Florida’s race for a top-three seed in the Atlantic Division this season. Moreover, the feisty Vatrano has provided the Panthers’ third line with stability, forming excellent chemistry with speedy linemate Denis Malgin.

In essence, Frank Vatrano has unquestionably provided a positive impact on the Panthers, helping the Cats win a majority of games by embracing a more significant role on the team.

He’s arguably been one of the most underrated and underappreciated players on this team, as he always brings maximum effort and hustle on a nightly basis.

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The Florida Panthers lost their third game of this nine-game homestand Thursday night, as the New York Islanders took care of business in a tightly-contested affair.
This was the second straight game the Florida Panthers scored just one goal, but also the second straight game the power play was held scoreless. Going zero for three for the second straight game on the man advantage shows that the Panthers are really struggling to adapt to a new power play philosophy on a consistent basis.

On the other side of special teams, the Cats weren’t much better. The Islanders scored their first two goals on power plays, with the Panthers clearly outmatched by Islanders’ power play coach Jim Hiller.

After a very tight first period looked to be going in with nothing to separate the sides, Frank Vatrano took an ill-advised penalty in the neutral zone. While the Panthers didn’t concede in the first, it set up New York to take advantage in the second.

They would do just that 49 seconds into the second. Devon Toews got space to shoot near the blue line and put the shot past Sergei Bobrovsky, who was being screened on the play, to make it 1-0.

Bobrovsky, who Joel Quenneville praised earlier Thursday morning, was yet again impeccable tonight. Bob won third star of the game, saving 27 of the 29 shots he faced, and similarly to Tuesday night, keeping the Florida Panthers alive.

Unfortunately for the 30-year-old Russian, the rest of the players kept digging a bigger hole. Vincent Trocheck tripped New York forward Anthony Beauvillier just three minutes after the first goal, and New York went back on the man advantage.

Similarly to the first power play, the Islanders would score again. MacKenzie Weegar made an ill-advised pass trying to clear the zone, which was seized upon by winger Josh Bailey. Bailey would deflect the puck to fellow winger Jordan Eberle, who had the primary assist on the first goal and would get the primary assist on the second.

Eberle, in one swift movement, turned, looked up, and passed the puck to Matt Barzal on the left side, who swept the puck in, leaving Bobrovsky with no chance, and just like that, 2-0 Islanders.

Florida wouldn’t just roll over, however, and eventually got back into the game. Michael Dal Colle‘s giveaway to Brett Connolly snapped the Panthers into high gear, with Mark Pysyk excellently picking out Mike Hoffman on the odd-man rush. Hoffman gave New York goaltender Thomas Greiss no chance, slotting it top shelf near side to make it 2-1.

This was Hoffman’s 12th goal of the season. Hoffman has been in a solid groove as of late, with five points (two goals, three assists) in his last four games. This one gave Florida a lifeline.

It was a lifeline that the Cats just couldn’t seem to take. Despite playing just as good as the Islanders were, despite getting multiple power-play opportunities, the Panthers yet again could not capitalize. A few fantastic saves from both goalies and an empty-net goal from New York Captain Anders Lee with three seconds to go polished off the third period, with Florida losing 3-1.

The loss makes it the fourth loss in the last six and puts Florida down to sixth in the Atlantic Division. Sure, the division is about as compact as any, but dropping four spots in the span of two games as pathetically as the Panthers have is something to be concerned with.

The team is trying to find the answer, but ultimately it might not be with this 22-man roster. If it was me, I’d start looking at players to bring up, to give a spark to this offense. It was on display tonight, the forward core looks flat and out of ideas.

Let me reiterate one thing, the Florida Panthers did not play a terrible game of hockey tonight. This is a very good New York Islanders team, and the Panthers were even, if not better than New York, in almost every major stat. The big one is power-play opportunities; Islanders go 2/4, Panthers go 0/3, New York wins 3-1.

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REST OF SEASON OUTLOOK AND POSITION RANK
You can expect Dominic Toninato to be a good bench player who will start in certain weeks the rest of the season. His 49 projected fantasy points puts him at #90 behind Marcus Sorensen and ahead of Michael Grabner. He has averaged 0.55 fantasy points in his past 16 games, which is less than our projected per game average. He is projected to average 1 fantasy points. His rank based on avg proj (#96) is worse than his rank based on total fantasy points. Dominic Toninato is expected to improve on this season-to-date’s #132 fantasy position rank.

REST OF SEASON RANK (LW) PROJECTION FANTASY STATS SINCE 2019
#88 Mikkel Boedker (1% OWN) 51 FP, 1.07 per game 52 FP, 71 gp, 0.74 per game (#101)
#89 Marcus Sorensen (2% OWN) 49 FP, 1.07 per game 95 FP, 80 gp, 1.18 per game (#63)
#90 Dominic Toninato (2% OWN) 49 FP, 1 per game 95 FP, 80 gp, 1.18 per game (#63)
#91 Michael Grabner (7% OWN) 49 FP, 1.06 per game 54 FP, 41 gp, 1.32 per game (#56)
#92 Matt Nieto (2% OWN) 49 FP, 0.99 per game 52 FP, 64 gp, 0.81 per game (#93)
These projections power SportsLine’s Computer Picks and Fantasy Data. But for contest winning DFS optimal lineups by top experts like Mike McClure visit SportsLine’s new Daily Fantasy Hub.

SIT EM ALERT: DOMINIC TONINATO WEEK 11 AND 12 FANTASY OUTLOOK
Dominic Toninato is projected for 0.84 fantasy points in one game the rest of the week which projects to being the #117 ranked left wing. This is projected to be a below average game with fewer fantasy points than he is projected to average per game the rest of the season. He is ranked above Micheal Haley but behind Tim Schaller the rest of the week. Week 12 will be better based on projected rank (#91). He is projected for 3.03 fantasy points.

12/13 TO 12/15 RANK (LW) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#115 Brendan Leipsic (3% OWN) 0.87 FP, 1 GP 1.16 FP
#116 Tim Schaller (0% OWN) 0.87 FP, 2 GP 0.48 FP
#117 Dominic Toninato (2% OWN) 0.84 FP, 1 GP 1 FP
#118 Micheal Haley (1% OWN) 0.84 FP, 1 GP 0.77 FP
#119 Anders Bjork (3% OWN) 0.8 FP, 1 GP 0.96 FP
12/16 TO 12/22 RANK (LW) PROJECTION ROS FP PROJ AVG
#89 Patrick Marleau (11% OWN) 3.18 FP, 3 GP 1.12 FP
#90 Denis Gurianov (11% OWN) 3.04 FP, 4 GP 0.83 FP
#91 Dominic Toninato (2% OWN) 3.03 FP, 3 GP 1 FP
#92 Marcus Sorensen (2% OWN) 3.01 FP, 3 GP 1.07 FP
#93 Cody Glass (31% OWN) 3 FP, 3 GP 1.07 FP
FANTASY PROJECTIONS AND ACTUAL STATS
The tables below show projected stats (totals and averages) for the rest of the season and upcoming weeks. Also included are actual stats from the current and last season.

DOMINIC TONINATO FP PTS G A SOG PPG
Rest of ’19-20 49.0 13.8 10.4 3.4 56 0.7
– Per Game (49 Proj) 1.00 0.28 0.21 0.07 1.14 0.01
12/9 to 12/15 (1 Game) 0.84 0.27 0.20 0.06 1.07 0.01
12/16 to 12/22 (3 Games) 3.03 0.84 0.63 0.20 3.28 0.04
’19-20 Season 5.8 2 2 0 12 0
– Per Game (14 GP) 0.41 0.14 0.14 0.00 0.86 0.00
’18-20 Seasons 8.8 3 3 0 13 0
– Per Game (16 GP) 0.55 0.19 0.19 0.00 0.81 0.00

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The sudden winner is always a sweet one.

The grin on Elias Pettersson’s face, as wide as it gets for the young Swede, as we finished up talking about his game winner on Thursday night, told the whole story.

It wasn’t far off from the grin he flashed last season after breaking Pavel Bure’s rookie scoring record.

Winning hockey is better than anything.

“I always go with my first thought, if I think two times or doubt my abilities, the play might be gone,” he said of the crazy moment.

Working on picking up loose pucks isn’t necessarily something he does specifically in practice, but it’s something teams work on all the time. Just this week in a practice, skills coach Glenn Carnegie had the Canucks working on collecting loose pucks that had caromed off obstacles placed in front of the crease.

The read Pettersson made when the puck didn’t skip over the lost stick — it was Jaccob Slavin’s — was lightning fast. No shock there.

And the shot was as tough a shot as you can get off. It looked like Mrazek was caught off guard by it.

“I feel comfortable with getting pucks up high from short range,” he said, again with modesty. “I’m very happy with the win.”

Brock Boeser said he knew the loose stick was there but knew he didn’t have many options, so it was just about getting it near his star centre.

“Unreal,” he said of the shot that Pettersson pulled off.

Worries about Brock?
Big picture, kids, big picture. The missed breakaways stung him. But he’s healthy. The goals will come back.

Did you notice?
It’s not often your top ice-time man is a forward, but it was on this night: J.T. Miller’s 22:08 eclipsed Quinn Hughes’s 22:00.

Who wouldn’t want a top-six winger?
I did chuckle a little when Jim Benning said he’s after a top-six winger. It wasn’t earth-shattering more than it was confirmation of something you’d expect to hear from a GM who has ambitions of sending his team not just into the playoffs, but deep into the postseason party.

So, of course, he’s after a winger who would make an impact. Every GM should be.

But as you know, the Canucks’ roster has some wrinkles to it. As it stands, the only way to really add another winger to the roster would be if it works out that Micheal Ferland is out long-term. As yet, that’s not clear.

He’s dealing with post-concussion symptoms, it seems, though the team’s medical staff is still investigating.

If he’s out long-term, the Canucks could park him on LTIR, which would allow them to add a player whose cap hit comes in at about $3.6 million — while he’s on LTIR, anyway.

If he were to recover and play, there would be other moves to make, of course.

But in the summer, things would be pretty hairy.

Pondering free agents
Beyond the numbers we can see publicly at places like CapFriendly, there are undisclosed cap penalties that teams carry around from time to time. It’s well known among league personnel and capologists that in rare instances clubs have had cap charges for contract-related settlements not publicly known.

Add the interest in adding another winger to the not-surprising news that Benning would like to retain Jacob Markstrom — I mean, think about it, it makes sense, you need two NHL goalies anyway and there are two years between now and the Seattle expansion draft, and while some might argue that going ride or die with two young goalies next year in Thatcher Demko and Mike DiPietro would be worth the risk — we must think about the whole picture.

The Canucks’ No. 1 is pulling in $3.6 million this year. Assuming he carries forward with his solid play, he’s going to be after a raise. Think about it: Jake Allen is making more than he is. Freddy Andersen makes $5 million and he’s younger and probably better. A raise, maybe not a big one, but a raise nonetheless.

Is Semyon Varlamov, who makes $6 million, a comp? It does seem unlikely he goes that high.

Josh Leivo: An unrestricted free agent next summer, he’s on pace to post career highs in points. That said, this is his first full NHL season. He signed a one-year, $1.5-million show-me deal last summer and he’ll be after some kind of raise, that’s for sure.

Adam Gaudette: The next face in the 10.2(c) contract wars, the sophomore centre is set for a breakout season. But he also has no leverage. Brock Boeser missed training camp before he signed last fall. Will Gaudette wait that long before signing on for a small raise over $916,000?

Tim Schaller is making $1.9 million this season and may be a coach’s favourite, but it’s going to be hard to keep him around if there are raises elsewhere. Surely he’ll go back on the unrestricted free agent market.

Tyler Motte will be an unrestricted free agent, making $975,000 this year. He’ll surely be retained, especially if there isn’t room for Schaller.

Chris Tanev is making $4.45 million. If he finally stays healthy for a full season, it seems a safe bet the Canucks will look to re-up with him. He’s three years younger than Anton Stralman, who signed for $4.5 million this summer, but they feel like reasonable comparables.

Oscar Fantenberg has been fine as a depth option at $850k, but surely he’s a placeholder for Olli Juolevi?

Which brings us to restricted free agent Troy Stecher . He’s making $2.325 million this year and could push for an arbitration case. That’s if the Canucks qualify him.

A former Eastern Conference exec told me Stecher’s agent would likely go in asking for No. 4 d-man money, which would take him to the doorstep of $4 million. A team will argue that he is what he’s been used as this year, more like a No. 5, which should be valued at $2.75 million.

“Defensive defencemen don’t get points and that’s OK,” is the classic agent argument, vs. the team argument: “Points is how D get measured.”

“But you can basically argue a guy like this is worth $2.5 or $4.5,” he said.

It may be hard to keep Stecher this summer. Could he be trade bait before then?

Jake Virtanen is in a similar boat to Stecher in that he’s got arbitration rights if he doesn’t agree to his qualifying offer. But he’s also making “just” $1.25 million this year. He doesn’t kill penalties, the exec noted, and doesn’t get a lot of power-play time. But he has, nonetheless, been putting up points. Counting stats are good for your case.

“If he keeps scoring he has a case. Also could post best plus/minus of his career,” he said. “His arb profile will be between $1.75 and $2.1m. Really no leverage there unless agent convinced team he’s a 40+ point power forward for good now and he signs for term at closer to $3m.”

So there you go, there are some raises to be had. It’s going to make for another tight salary cap next year.

And this is without getting into the cap challenges posed by the performance bonuses Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and even Adam Gaudette could acquire this year. Much of that money could get applied to next year’s salary cap.

Call it by my name
Smythe Division. Let’s make it great again.

Standings etc.
It’s a log-jam, folks.

Good news: the Canucks have games in hand on the three Smythe Division teams above them. The nervous news: those Preds, lurking below.

Could do some serious damage to opposition hopes this weekend, but that Sunday tilt in Vegas is scary scheduling.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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Sergei Bobrovsky had a great game against his former team as the Florida Panthers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 for a much-needed win.
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky shook off the cobwebs last night as he beat his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Bobrovsky had 10 days of rest and it certainly helped. Let’s get right to the recap of last night’s wonderful win!

Evgenii Dadonov opened up the scoring early for the Panthers as he scored 18 seconds into the game, assisted by the young captain Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle, to make the score 1-0. Josh Brown also had a fight in the first and it was a great one. Brown then scored a goal in the second period, assisted by Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, to make the score 2-0.

It’s worth mentioning that Barkov and Huberdeau are one of the top scoring lines in the entire National Hockey League. When they are on the ice together, everyone around them seems to mesh together beautifully. There’s a certain leadership and maturity that they bring to the team despite their young age and it’s a wonderful thing to witness as a hockey fan.

The next goal was scored in the third period by Brett Connolly on the power play, assisted by Keith Yandle and Mike Hoffman, to make the score 3-0 Panthers. The next goal was scored by V. Gavrikov and assisted by Texier and Anderson to put the Columbus Blue Jackets on the board and eliminate the possibility of a shutout for Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers.

However, all was well as Hoffman, assisted by Colton Sceviour, would put the game away on an empty-net goal and send the Blue Jackets back to cold Ohio empty-handed. Last night was also very special as the Panthers honored the Koffee Kult’s Hero Among Us, who was a WWII Veteran who also celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday.

NEXT: Every Team’s Mount Rushmore
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As always, the appreciation for his service was felt as the fans gave him a warm round of applause. The three stars of the game were Aleksander Barkov, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Josh Brown. Tonight we’re right back at it for a back to back. Tonight we face the San Jose Sharks. Let’s leave them singing “Baby shark, boo hoo hoo.” That’s all I got for now. As always, thanks for reading and as always Let’s Go Cats!!!!

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The Panthers’ offense has gone cold.

For the second game in a row, the Panthers — who entered this week with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NHL — were held to just one goal.

On Thursday night at the BB&T Center, it was the New York Islanders who shut down the Panthers 3-1.

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had 27 saves as Florida lost its second consecutive game and fell to 3-3-0 during this nine-game homestand, which is the longest in franchise history.

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“It’s unfortunate we lost the game. It’s the NHL — it’s not easy to win,” said Bobrovsky, who has allowed just six goals in his past four games. “But we have a great group of guys, very talented and skilled. We believe in each other. We will work hard and move on.”

Mike Hoffman scored Florida’s lone goal, his 12th of the season.

Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss stopped everything else — 32 shots in all — as the Islanders improved to 19-0-1 this season when scoring at least three goals.

Perhaps Thursday’s result should come as no surprise. The Islanders are a very good team with elite goaltending.

Since the start of last season, only the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues have earned more wins than the Islanders.

And, entering Thursday, the Islanders’ goals-against average of 2.38 ranked third in the NHL.

Devon Toews and Mathew Barzal scored power-play goals for the Islanders, and Anders Lee added an empty-netter with three seconds left. Jordan Eberle added two assists, his first such game since Oct. 11.

New York went 2 for 4 on its power play. The Panthers went 0 for 3, and their failure with the man advantage midway through the third period helped seal their fate.

Greiss, who robbed Brett Connolly with 3:55 left in the third, broke his personal two-game losing streak and also beat the Panthers for the second time this season. He beat them 2-1 on Nov. 9.

New York opened the scoring on a power-play goal with just 49 seconds elapsed in the second period.

The power play started at the end of the first, when Florida’s Frank Vatrano was called for tripping Toews. Then, thanks to an effective Lee screen, Toews’ long shot from the point made it past Bobrovsky. Eberle earned the assist for his set-up pass.

Florida got in trouble with another penalty — this time Panthers center Vincent Trocheck caught holding Anthony Beauvillier — and New York’s power play converted again.

Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar tried to pass the puck out of his own zone, but Eberle intercepted and fed to Barzal, who scored on the open left side of the net with 4:49 expired in the second.

Weegar, meanwhile, cracked his stick on top of the Panthers crossbar in disgust.

Florida cut its deficit to 2-1 with 9:36 gone in the second. Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk, playing his first game since Dec. 3 after picking up several healthy scratches, jumped up to create a two-on-one opportunity. Pysyk then passed to Hoffman, who fired a high shot from the left circle, beating Greiss stick-side.

But the power play came up empty, and the Panthers couldn’t crack New York’s air-tight defense.

“That’s what they do — they try to frustrate you,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said.

“They check you. They outwork you. We didn’t play anywhere near as hard as we had to play to be successful.”

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Photo gallery: Islanders at Panthers | Thursday, December 12, 2019
Florida Panthers center Brian Boyle (9) fights with New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (27) during the second period of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Thursday, December 12, 2019 in Sunrise. DAVID SANTIAGO [email protected]
Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) and Aaron Ekblad (5) battle for a puck against New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) during the third period of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Thursday, December 12, 2019 in Sunrise. DAVID SANTIAGO [email protected]

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Dec. 13, 2019) – FOX Sports Florida, the television home of the Florida Panthers, will debut the an all-new “Inside the Panthers LIVE” tomorrow before the start of Florida’s game against the Boston Bruins. Fans can tune in Saturday at 6 p.m. as host Jessica Blaylock brings viewers inside the Panthers efforts to teach the game and make it accessible for every part of South Florida. Former Panther and current Director of Hockey at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs Peter Worrell will join Jessica live on set to talk about these programs.

Through the “Learn To Play” program, the Panthers provide low-cost access to training, uniforms and equipment for adults and children. Viewers will hear from Panthers teammates Mike Hoffman and Mike Matheson about why they like to give their time to young hockey players. Girls are included in the “Learn To Play” program, both in co-ed classes and in special girls-only classes. Emily Pfalzer Matheson, a Team USA Olympian and wife of Mike Matheson, is one of many female role models helping to teach the sport to these young ladies.

Floorball is an off-ice version of the sport which uses a small lightweight stick and plastic ball to build fundamentals. The Panthers have implemented Floorball in approximately 250 schools in the tri-county area. “Inside the Panthers LIVE” visits Forest Glen Middle School in Coral Springs, where students and school administrators share their thoughts on the game and the Panthers’ assistance to grow the sport. The Panthers also provide Floorball clinics at the BB&T Center for local educators. Viewers will get an inside look at how these teachers get hands-on experience to bring the game and $1000 worth of Panthers-donated equipment back to their classrooms.

Additionally, the Panthers have provided a Community Champions Grant to the American Special Hockey Association, which provides access to the sport for disabled youth and adults. Viewers will get a feel for this incredible program that is touching lives in ways more meaningful than wins and losses. A Community Champions Grant was also recently awarded to the Panthers Warriors, an ice hockey team comprised of military veterans. Viewers will hear from participants and their part-time coach, former Panthers defenseman Anders Eriksson, about how important this program is for healing these brave Americans.

Finally, Senior Director of the Florida Panthers Foundation and Community Relations John Colombo and Panthers Youth Hockey Manager Matt Janusz guide viewers through a variety of programs, on and off the ice.

Replay Schedule:

Tue 10/08/19 6:00 PM
Fri 10/11/19 10:30 PM
Sat 10/12/19 6:30 PM
Mon 10/14/19 7:00 PM
Fri 10/18/19 6:00 PM
Sat 10/19/19 7:30 PM
Tue 10/22/19 6:00 PM
Sun 10/27/19 7:00 PM
Sat 11/02/19 6:00 PM
Thu 11/07/19 6:00 PM
Sat 11/09/19 3:00 AM
Sun 11/10/19 4:00 PM
Sun 11/10/19 3:00 AM
Mon 11/11/19 10:00 PM
ABOUT FOX SPORTS FLORIDA / FOX SPORTS SUN

FOX Sports Florida & FOX Sports Sun are the regional television homes of the Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. The regional sports networks have been fixtures in the homes of sports fans throughout the Sunshine State for over 30 years. Today, the networks combine to produce more than 700 live sporting events and over 300 studio based and original programs year round. FOX Sports Florida and FOX Sports Sun are committed to making a positive impact in the communities we serve by engaging our audiences and providing award-winning TV and web coverage of Florida’s hometown sports teams. For more information, channel listings and how you can get involved with FOX Sports Florida / FOX Sports Sun, visit www.foxsportsflorida.com.

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Thursday night, the Cardiac Cats made their dramatic return, erasing their second 4-0 deficit in a matter of two weeks in a 5-4 OT win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Let’s be clear, the Florida Panthers were nowhere near their best. The comeback win was very impressive, but it’s not a game that this team can play consistently and expect to pull off results.

It’s highly improbable, there have only been four games in which a team has overcome a four-goal gap to earn a win. The Florida Panthers have done it twice.

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It came with logical lineup changes and some selfless passing, but Florida somehow got the job done, scoring five goals in a span of 24:00 to defeat the Ducks on home ice. For the first 36:00, however, the Panthers should not be proud of how they played.

It was a kind of game that Anaheim wanted to play, and Joel Quenneville‘s team were surprisingly being not just out-played, but out-coached. The game was very narrow, neither team really spreading the puck out in the neutral zone, but rather staying condensed, patient, defensive. This is not how the Florida Panthers win games, but for the Ducks, they were quite content with the pace.

It showed on the scoreboard, too. Four goals unanswered left Florida in a deep hole with less than 2:00 to go in the second. Brett Connolly‘s quickfire two goals might’ve been the spark of the comeback, but it wasn’t anything different from how the Panthers had been playing. The real change came coming out of the locker room, heading into the final 20.

In previous years of coaching, the Florida Panthers have been very gung-ho to making drastic changes when facing a huge lead. Tom Rowe and Bob Boughner are both equally as guilty to messing with all four lines over one intermission. Players like Mike Hoffman would go through three lines in one game in an effort to make something work.

Now, Joel Quenneville knows what he has in his players, and knows how to get the best out of them. Instead of trashing the first line because they’d been held scoreless by putting someone like Connolly on it, Quenneville made just one change; Frank Vatrano to line two, Mike Hoffman to line three.

The change didn’t seem too meaningful but was a stroke of genius. While he didn’t get any points in the 3rd period or OT period, Vatrano was electric in this comeback. Vatrano laid hit after hit and started chasing the pucks deep in the Anaheim zone, something Florida did very little of in the first two periods.

Anaheim’s first goal of the game came off an extended shift in which the Panthers’ forwards eventually lost focus and left Max Jones wide open at the side of the net. Florida’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th goals all came on extended shifts, moving around in the zone, and catching the Ducks napping.

Before we get too much into the goals, two players deserve some immense credit for keeping the Ducks at bay; Mike Matheson and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Matheson, who is usually to blame on a nightly basis for a goal, was really impressive at getting back in defense. He made a great play on Derek Grant in the second period (even though Denis Malgin would trip Grant seven seconds later, leading to ANA’s third goal) to poke the puck free on a potential breakaway. In the third, he did that same thing, stripping Troy Terry of the puck when he could have iced the game.

For Bobrovsky, it’s pretty straightforward. Look at the stats tonight, you’ll think he struggled again, but see how three of the four goals really weren’t his fault (Jones wide open in the slot, Jakob Silfverberg screening the goalie on Rickard Rakell‘s power-play goal, and Keith Yandle‘s giveaway leading to Ondrej Kase‘s unassisted goal). Yet again, Bobrovsky was immense in the fourth period, saving all 12 shots on goal to keep Florida alive.

For certain, however, this comeback does not happen without Aaron Ekblad. He has been, to put it lightly, fantastic under Joel Quenneville. His defense looks improved, he’s smarter with the puck, and he finally got to flash some of his two-way value, getting two goals and a primary assist to lead the Cats’ charge.

He won the first star of the night, getting the game-winning goal and primary assist to Dominic Toninato‘s game-tying goal, but it still just doesn’t say enough about his game. He was great defensively, the only time he gave up a goal was Yandle’s giveaway, he kept multiple plays alive with his effort, and was rewarded handsomely. Also, the celebration on the game-winner was sick.

It all comes with one thing: confidence. Under Rowe, Ekblad suffered a bad concussion, in which he was rushed back into the lineup, and played well below his standard. Under Boughner, Ekblad was constantly put into bad situations and really began to lack courage on a nightly basis.

Now, Ekblad has transformed back into 2015-16 all-star Ekblad. 23:30 of time on ice, the most amongst all Panthers, two blocks, three shots on goal (two goals, one which led to a goal), two blocks, three points, arguably the best game of his career.

As I said in the beginning, the Panthers cannot continuously play like this. Coming back from 4-0 down is so improbable, there have only been four seasons in which teams have come back from 4+ goals more than three times. This is the first time of this century there have been four 4+ goal comebacks.

The Panthers, however, deserve some massive praise for this. For a team to play as bad as they did, yet still find a way to win isn’t just the sign of a good team, but a sign of champions.