SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers are heading into the league-mandated bye week searching for offense after a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames at BB&T Center on Friday night.
Johnny Gaudreau scored the game-winning goal for the Flames, taking a pass from Mikael Backlund and firing a slap shot from the left circle past goalie James Reimer on the power-play at 16:15 of the second period.
Florida finished the night with a 43-29 shot advantage, but could only convert on two of their plentiful chances. The Panthers have now recorded more than 35 shots on goal in each of their last four games, but are just 1-2-1 during that span.
"We just couldn't' seem to generate enough offense and execute," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "Give their goalie a lot of credit, he played well, he played great. It's not for a lack of chances, it's more for execution and burying our chances." The Panthers have scored two-or-fewer goals in 10 of their last 14 games. "I thought we had good looks throughout the game," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "It's kind of one of those where we kind of have to look, find ways to see how we lost that game… we've got to bury our chances."
Here are five takeaways from Friday's loss in Sunrise …
1. DOUBLE DADONOV
For the first time in five games, the Panthers scored the first goal of the game on Friday night. With Florida on the power play, Evgenii Dadonov took a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and blasted a one-timer past Flames goalie David Rittich to put the Panthers up 1-0 just 27 seconds into the second period. That timely score ended a 19-game goal drought for Dadonov, who added another goal late in the third period for his second two-goal game of the season. After returning from the KHL and signing a three-year deal with the Panthers this offseason, Dadonov has spent the majority of the year on Florida's top line with Aleksander Barkov and Huberdeau. The 28-year-old winger ranks fourth on the team in both goals (9) and points (26) in 35 games, with eight of those points coming on the power play. "He's been good for a while, he's just been snake-bit," Boughner said. "It's nice to see him get the bounces tonight. I think he's going to take off after this game."
Video: CGY@FLA: Dadonov blasts one-timer for PPG
2. CATS GOT THE POWER
Dadonov's second-period score was not only a good sign for Florida's top line, but also its power play. The Panthers entered Friday night's game in the midst of a brutal 3-for-34 stretch with the man advantage since Dec. 9 - the second-worst power play in the league during that span. But with Dadonov's goal, the Panthers have now scored with the extra attacker in two of their last three games. In order to keep improving upon their recent success, however, the team will need to see more contributions from its second power-play unit. Of Florida's 21 power play goals this season, 16 have come from players currently on the club's first unit. The Panthers finished the night 1-for-4 with the man advantage. "It seems like the power play has found its stride, for sure," Boughner said. "We've had a lot of great puck movement as of late and some execution on it."
3. RITTICH STANDS TALL
If you didn't know about David Rittich before Friday night's game, you certainly do now. The Flames backup goaltender was outstanding against the Panthers, stopping 41 of 43 shots to earn his first victory since Dec. 17. The 25-year-old was never drafted and spent two seasons playing in his native Czech Republic before joining the Flames organization in 2016-17. Since then, he appears to be way more of a diamond in the rough than a dud, posting a 4-1-1 record while allowing two-or-fewer goals in all six of his starts this season. "Give their goalie a lot of credit, he played well," Boughner said.
4. PANTHERS DOMINATE POSSESSION
Florida's game plan on offensive has been pretty straightforward this season: throw anything and everything at the net. And for the fifth time in their last eight games, the Panthers won the possession battle on Friday night, besting the Flames in shot attempts 59-42 at even strength and 82-53 in all situations. The Panthers finished the night with 11 skaters at or above 50 CF% at 5-on-5, with defenseman Alex Petrovic finishing the night at the Corsi King, being on the ice for 24 shots for and just four against. Aside from a few hiccups in the second period, the numbers say this game was all Panthers, who also finished with 13 high-danger scoring chances to Calgary's 10.
5. BYE WEEK
The Panthers are heading into the bye week six points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. Florida is off until Friday, Jan. 19, when it returns from the break to host the Las Vegas Golden Knights at BB&T Center. As for what he expects from his team during the time off, Boughner said he wants his players to think about hockey as little as possible and recharge for the playoff push ahead. "We demand a lot of these guys and it's been pretty intense around here for a while," Boughner said. "It's draining when you're in a race like this and every point's huge and every point matters. I think that they can just forget about it for a few days."