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5 Takeaways: Bobrovsky Sharp in Return as Panthers Take Down Red Wings

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/18/20 Post Game Interviews

1/18/20 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Mark Pysyk.

  • 01:10 •

DETROIT - Sergei Bobrovsky was simply happy to get back to work.

After watching the last two games from the sidelines due to an injury, the veteran goaltender looked no worse for wear in his return to the crease, stopping 27 of 28 shots to help lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday.

"It's great to be back, definitely, to play some hockey," said Bobrovsky, who improved to 6-3-0 in his last nine starts. "I missed only two games, but it feels like I haven't played for a whole month. The guys did a great job. The focus was there. It was a great effort and a big two points for us."

Of his 27 saves, eight came from high-danger areas, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

"I feel pretty good," Bobrovsky said. "Again, I thought our guys helped me get into the game."

After spending the majority of the first period trading power-play opportunities with the Red Wings, the Panthers finally broke the ice when Evgenii Dadonov collected a nifty pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and then beat Jimmy Howard off the rush to make it 1-0 with at 17:15.

Less than two minutes later, Mark Pysyk doubled the lead to 2-0 at 18:40.

In the second period, the Red Wings answered back when Dylan Larkin beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway just a few moments after exiting the penalty box to cut Florida's lead to 2-1 at 5:15.

"Scoring early has been good for us," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought in the second period they had some good opportunities. They had a lot of play in our end. I still thought Bob [Bobrovsky] was key in that period. I thought we did some really good things"

With the Panthers clutching onto a 2-1 lead near the midway point of the third period, Bobrovsky made his biggest save - or saves - of the night. Facing down Frans Nielsen, who was flying into the zone on a breakaway, he not only saved the initial shot, but also denied a rebound attempt.

Video: FLA@DET: Bobrovsky makes consecutive saves on Nielsen

"If it goes to 2-2, it's a completely different game," Pysyk said of Bobrovsky's back-to-back saves. "He makes the first one, then the second one. He held strong so they couldn't get it."

Not long after that stellar sequence, Aleksander Barkov made it 3-1 on the power play when he re-directed a Keith Yandle shot past Howard at 13:05. Later, putting the icing on the cake, Denis Malgin, on his 23rd birthday, secured the 4-1 win with an empty-netter with 1:48 left on the clock.

Howard finished with 34 saves on 37 shots. Improving to 26-16-5, the Panthers, who have overtaken Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division, have now won a season-high four straight games and 11 of their last 15 overall.

"This time of the year, the things are tightening up," Bobrovsky said. "Every point is getting bigger and bigger. We have to take our points and move."

Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Detroit…

1. MR. FIRST PERIOD

Despite the snow falling outside, Dadonov came out hot once again.

After settling down a stunning stretch pass from Huberdeau, Dadonov skated toward Howard on a 2-on-1 break before roofing a slick goal to put the Panthers up 1-0 at 17:15 of the first period.

His team-leading 21st goal, he also paces the club in first-period goals (9).

Video: FLA@DET: Dadonov scores after Huberdeau stretch pass

On pace to surpass the career-high 28 goals that he's recorded in each of the last two seasons, Dadonov has been burning out the red light in recent weeks. Over his last 13 games, the 30-year-old winger has netted eight goals, including four on the power play and one game-winner.

2. PYSYK POWER

Pysyk was all over the place in the first period - literally.

Flipping back and forth between defense and forward throughout most of this season, Florida's newly-crowned renaissance man spent the first 20 minutes of tonight's game playing forward at 5-on-5, manning the blue line on the penalty kill and, for good measure, he even threw in a goal.

Taking a pass from Aaron Ekblad, who made some very nice moves before dishing the biscuit, Pysyk sent a puck on net, but was denied by Howard. Following his own rebound, however, he managed to maneuver around a defender and bury a follow-up attempt to make it 2-0 at 18:40.

That goal ended up standing as the game-winner - the third of his career.

Video: FLA@DET: Pysyk cleans up own rebound in front of net

"He was outstanding," Quenneville said of Pysyk. "I thought he had a great night. He did everything right in all areas of the game. He gives us a little bit of quickness on the offense when he's up there, and scored on a nice play. Ek [Ekblad)] did a lot of good things as well."

Playing far more at forward than defense in recent weeks, Pysyk has notched five points (two goals, three assists) over his last seven games. In 36 games this season, the 28-year-old has tallied nine points (four goals, five assists).

With one more goal, he will set a new career-high.

3. VATRANO HITS 100

With an assist on Pysyk's goal, Frank Vatrano earned the 100th point of his NHL career.

"It's obviously a great accomplishment," Vatrano told FOX Sports Florida's Katie Gaus when asked about his milestone during a second-intermission interview. "It's something that couldn't have been done without those guys in the room. We work hard for each other, night in and night out. If he wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in now."

Tweet from @FlaPanthersPR: With an assist tonight vs. DET, #FlaPanthers forward Frank Vatrano recorded his 100th @NHL point. pic.twitter.com/y5dMd1Ioct

Finishing with two assists tonight, Vatrano also extended his point streak to three games. In that span, the 25-year-old winger has racked up two goals and three assists. In the midst of his third campaign with Florida, he ranks seventh on the team in goals (11) and also ninth in points (23).

Against Detroit, Vatrano also drew the penalty that led to Barkov's big goal in the third period.

4. CAPTAIN CLUTCH

In crunch time, the captain answered the call.

Sent to a crucial power play in the third period, Barkov placed his stick down on the ice in the slot just in time to re-direct a shot from Yandle into the net to put Florida on top 3-1 at 13:05.

Video: FLA@DET: Barkov tips Yandle's pass in for PPG

"We just go out there and start working hard, right from the first minute, the first shift," Barkov said. "We're playing hard and having fun. We're playing for each other and getting results."

Pushing his point streak to four games, Barkov has recorded two goals and four assists in that span. Ranking second on the Panthers in assists (36) and points (51), the 24-year-old center also became the sixth player on the team to reach the 15-goal mark already this season.

Winning more than a few key faceoffs, Barkov also went 12-for-24 in the dot tonight.

5. PENALTY KILL PERSEVERES

In a game full of penalties at both ends, the Panthers were perfect on the penalty kill.

Stifling all seven of Detroit's power plays, it was their most kills on the season to date.

"We were in the box a lot, seven times, but our PK did good job," Pysyk said. "Guys dug in."

Noel Acciari (7:09) and Colton Sceviour (6:45) led Florida's forwards in shorthanded minutes in the win, while Anton Stralman and rookie Riley Stillman led the way on defense with 7:34 each.

Bobrovsky, meanwhile, stopped all 11 shots he faced on the kill.

"A lot of power plays out there tonight, and I thought our penalty kill was really good," Quenneville said. "We blocked some key shots and were disruptive on entries and took away the danger areas. I thought Bob [Bobrovsky] was really good. I thought he was our best killer early in the game, a couple big saves there."

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