SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – After a historic regular season, the Panthers dropped game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Washington scored a 4-2 win at FLA Live Arena, where the Panthers had been 34-7 this season.
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After the game, players said there is no panic and they will learn from the opening loss. It’s the second consecutive year the Cats lost game one at home in the playoffs.
It was great to see No. 5 in the Panthers jersey on the ice. He had missed the last six weeks, 20 games, with injury. Ekblad led the team in ice time and looked terrific considering the long layoff.
What Went Wrong
The Panthers surprisingly didn’t have their usual sharpness and energy. Thanks to an outstanding performance from goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Cats led 2-1 in the third period. But then came a couple of mental mistakes in managing the puck, giving Washington two great scoring chances that they converted. It went from a one-goal lead to a one-goal deficit in a hurry.
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Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau certainly did not have bad games to open the playoffs. They combined for eight shots on goal and at times were on the ice together as coach Andrew Brunette shuffled things trying to find that spark. But Washington kept both off the scoresheet something that did not happen very often during the regular season. Expect Barkov and Huberdeau to assert themselves more in game two.
The Panthers were not only the best comeback team in the NHL this season but tied an all-time record for most comeback wins. Time and time again they cranked up the pressure and made teams pay the price. That was not the case in game one and give Washington some of the credit for that. The Capitals are an experienced playoff team and protected their lead well.
Don’t Let History Repeat
After losing game one last season, the Panthers faced a realistic must win at home in game two. But Tampa won that game as well and went on to win the series.
Going down 2-0 with three of the next four games on the road isn’t a formula for success. Energy, urgency and desperation will all need to be at the forefront of a game two effort to avoid that difficult situation the team faced last year.
Fans Didn’t Disappoint
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Nearly 20,000 jammed into the arena last night. They were there early and were loud in anticipation of another high-flying home win. That didn’t materialize and in stunning fashion the Panthers lost the game that they led after two periods. They had been 39-0-1 in the regular season with the lead going into the third.