Panthers blow late on Predators for rare home loss

The Florida Panthers played with fire on Tuesday — maybe they have all year at home — and it finally bit them in the final 10 minutes against the Nashville Predators.

They fired 48 shots on David Rittich and they still couldn’t put the Predators away, then Sam Bennett made the expensive play – an unnecessary crosscheck behind the play – to give Nashville a power play in the final six minutes. and the Predators capitalized. With 5:31 to go, the Predators took the lead for the first time and held to stun Florida, 6-4, at Sunrise.

“I take a lot of responsibility,” Bennett said. “It’s a crucial game that I can’t do.”

The forward was not alone, however: the Panthers (35-11-5) allowed a shorthanded goal with 9:19 to go to allow Nashville (29-18-4) to tie the game 4- 4 when star defenseman Aaron Ekblad couldn’t properly catch a pass from All-Star left winger Jonathan Huberdeau.

They also had a huge advantage in possession time – they led 80-41 in shot attempts – but only led 20-15 in high-risk chances, which left goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky with his worst start to the calendar year as he made just 27 saves. on 32 shots.

Florida took a 1-0 lead in the first period and let it slip away in the first intermission, then a 3-1 lead in the second and let it slip away in less than two minutes. The Panthers even led 4-3 in the third before allowing three goals in the final 10 minutes – one shorthanded, one on the power play and one against an empty net – to lose only their fourth home game of the year. .

Florida has been surprisingly good at home this season with a 16-0 record after two periods, a league record of 5-3 after two periods and now tied at 2-1 in the second intermission.

During the first half of the year, the Panthers set the Eastern Conference’s best record for dominating at home, often with comebacks and third-period magic. For at least one night, he was exhausted on Tuesday and Florida fell behind the Carolina Hurricanes in points percentage.

“Our decisions all over the ice weren’t that precise, especially at key moments,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “We got what we deserved tonight. We weren’t smart enough in the key moments.

The 14,234 players at the FLA Live Arena were eager to see the Panthers back in South Florida on Tuesday. More than three weeks after their last home game, the Panthers kicked off their first game in Florida since the all-star break with a hot new video to the local audience, complete with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and displaying well in highlights quotes from the Panthers on how much they enjoy playing at home.

They had plenty of chances to cheer on the goals, only the Predators always had a ready answer.

With 13:15 left in the first period, forward Sam Reinhart scored on the power play for a 1-0 lead, but Nashville left winger Filip Forsberg answered 5:21 more late to tie the score at 1-1. In the second period, defensemen Radko Gudas and Ekblad scored within eight minutes of each other to make Florida a 3-1 lead, but the Predators erased the lead in 1:39 thanks to the defenseman’s goals star Roman Josi and left-winger Yakov Trenin.

The Panthers had an 11-2 shots advantage in the first eight minutes, but only a 1-0 lead to show and it was quickly gone. They had a 34-26 shooting advantage in the second intermission, but the score was still tied at 3-3. Rittich edged out Bobrovsky, who was starting for the fourth time in seven days and had his worst full-game save percentage of the season.

“As a group, we weren’t sharp in front of Bob tonight,” Brunette said when asked if he thought the goalie might need a game soon. “We gave up far too many opportunities.”

The most glaring error came on a power play, just halfway through the third. Florida led 4-3 after Bennett scored his first goal since January with 11:49 to go and a power play was the perfect opportunity to finally bury the Predators, especially after Nashville had a potential tying goal obliterated by a successful challenge of Brunette.

Instead, Ekblad stumbled near the blue line as he tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone and rookie Tanner Jeannot grabbed the loose puck with no one in front of him. The Predators winger raced down the ice and beat Bobrovsky to tie the game again.

The Panthers got the next two shots on goal, but Bennett’s penalty was a killer – a cross miss behind the net in the offensive zone as Nashville punted – and Predators forward Mikael Granlund scored 17 seconds into the game power that followed.

“We gave them their chances,” Gudas said, “and they took advantage of it.”

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) shoots Nashville Predators goaltender David Rittich (33) during the second period of an NHL game at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla. on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

Mamin returns to the front line

Maxim Mamin left injured reserve on Tuesday and immediately returned to the front row on the right wing, alongside fellow forwards Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov. The winger has missed seven consecutive games with an unspecified injury.

With Mamin back in the lineup, Noel Acciari had a night off after playing his first two games of the year on Friday and Saturday. The forward missed the first 48 games of the regular season after tearing a pectoral muscle during preseason.

To make room for Mamin on the active roster, the Panthers loaned Owen Tippett to AHL Charlotte. The right-winger has played in 42 of Florida’s 51 games this season after playing 45 of 52 games last year.

This story was originally published February 22, 2022 9:53 p.m.

Maryland native David Wilson is the Miami Herald’s duty man for sports coverage.

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