It started with promise and ended with a thud.
The Ducks saw their two-game winning streak end in an 8-3 defeat to the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Thursday night in a game that was (unfortunately) highlighted by a porous defensive effort from the road club. Ghastly turnovers ultimately doomed the Ducks, who gave up the opening goal just 64 seconds into the first period.
A ragged defensive effort reached its peak when the Ducks allowed an odd-man rush on a power play resulting in a shorthanded goal in the second period - one of three goals the Panthers scored in the middle frame.
Despite the lopsided loss, it was a milestone evening for Ducks rookie forward Kalle Kossila, who scored his first career NHL goal in the first period. The Ducks also received goals from Andrew Cogliano and Logan Shaw in the third period. Making his ninth consecutive start, John Gibson stopped 11 of 17 shots through two periods before Reto Berra took over for the third.
It was a homecoming for rookie defenseman Jaycob Megna, who hails from nearby Plantation, Florida. Megna had approximately 25 friends and family in attendance.
Florida's offensive onslaught was led by veteran forward Radim Vrbata, who recorded a hat trick for his first three goals of the season. Owen Tippett, Vincent Trocheck, Evgenii Dadonov (two goals) and Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers, who were coming off a 5-1 loss two nights ago in Montreal. James Reimer stopped 31 shots to improve his record to 3-3-0 this season.
It took just 64 seconds for the Panthers to get on the board. Vrbata, in his first season with the Panthers, hung around the front of the net and buried a loose puck for his first goal of the 2017-18 campaign.
The Panthers doubled their lead at the 4:23 mark of the first period when Tippett drove to the far post to jam home a crisp pass on a 2-on-1 with former Ducks left wing Jamie McGinn. For the 18-year-old Tippett, drafted 10th overall in 2017, the goal served as his first career NHL tally.
Anaheim cut the deficit in half when the club's fourth line came through with a big goal at the 6:24 mark of the period. The play started when Chris Wagner kept the puck alive beneath the goal line on the far side. From there, Shaw picked it up and swooped behind the net, eventually sending a backhanded pass into the slot onto Kossila's tape. Like Tippett, this was the first career NHL goal for Kossila. It also gave Kossila a two-game point streak (he recorded his first career NHL point in the 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday).
"It was a good play by Wags and Shawzy," said Kossila. "I was just the third guy high. The puck came to me and I got a good shot."
Video: ANA@FLA: Kossila goes five-hole for first NHL goal
Vrbata scored his second goal of the opening frame at the 17:24 mark when he was left all alone in front of Gibson on the power play. Vrbata used a wrist shot that went up and over Gibson's left shoulder to push Florida's lead to 3-1.
A few seconds later, Josh Manson and Micheal Haley dropped the gloves at center ice in what appeared to be a response to Manson's hit on Barkov earlier in the period. Manson and Haley both landed a few shots before they tumbled to the ice.
The Panthers increased their lead to 4-1 on a busted play early in the second period when Trocheck slipped behind the Ducks' defense before tapping it over Gibson's right leg pad.
Dadonov made it 5-1 when he flew down the wing and unloaded a backdoor one-timer at the 11:33 mark of the second period after the Ducks failed to track him flying into the zone.
A nightmarish second period got worse for the Ducks when Barkov chipped in a shorthanded goal on a 2-on-1 rush after Francois Beauchemin turned the puck over in the offensive zone with just under five minutes remaining.
Florida's five-goal lead held until Cogliano channeled his inner Cody Bellinger with a baseball-like swing to bat the puck across the stripe at the 2:18 mark of the third period. Cogliano, stationed in front of Reimer, swung at a puck that sailed up into the air on a delayed penalty call. The goal, Cogliano's third of the season, also gave him the team lead in points (7).
Video: ANA@FLA: Cogliano whacks puck out of midair for goal
Riding a hot hand, Vrbata capped off his dominating performance with a hat trick, his third goal coming eight minutes into the final frame.
Shaw made it a 7-3 score when he ripped a slap shot that sailed over Reimer's left shoulder for his first goal of the season at the 10:46 mark of the third. With an assist, Derek Grant increased his point streak to three games (4 points, 2g/2a), tying his career high for points in a single season, set in 2016-17 when he had four points (all assists) in 46 combined games with Nashville and Buffalo.
Video: ANA@FLA: Shaw blast long rebound past past Reimer
Florida's eighth goal of the night came off another Ducks turnover - this time a mishandled puck in the slot that eventually made its way to Dadonov, who was left uncontested at the far post.
Anaheim's four-game road trip continues on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.