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5 TAKEAWAYS: Panthers Make History at Home on Ekblad's OT Winner

by Jameson Olive @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

11/24/21 Post Game Interviews

11/24/21 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Interim Head Coach Andrew Brunette, forward Sam Bennett and defenseman Aaron Ekblad

  • 01:15 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Panthers never doubted themselves.

With Sergei Bobrovsky transforming into a brick wall to keep his team's deficit at 1-0 in the third period, Sam Bennett scored the game-tying goal before Aaron Ekblad buried the game-winner in overtime to lift the Panthers to a 2-1 win over the Flyers at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday.

By capping off the come-from-behind win, the Panthers became just the second team in NHL history to start a season with 11 straight victories at home, joining the 1963-64 Blackhawks.

"We just come in waves," Ekblad said of the team's effort. "We never feel run out of confidence on the bench. We're always in the game mentally and we're never worried about the score."

Bolstered by their historically hot start at home, the Panthers are heading into Thanksgiving not only leading the Atlantic Division, but also sitting atop the NHL's standings with a 14-2-3 record.

"There was a big feeling of pride and joy in the locker room after that win," Bennett said. "It wasn't an easy one, and we're proud of how we're playing at home. It's a lot of fun playing in front of our fans and getting wins at home. We're just going to look to keep doing that."

Not easy indeed.

Despite coming out hot and dominating play for the majority of the first seven minutes of the game, the Panthers fell into an early hole when Joel Farabee took a pass from Travis Konecny and beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 7:33 of the first period.

In the second period, the Panthers were even more in control than they were in the first, but still couldn't find the back of the net. Doing a stellar job of dictating the action up and down the ice, they led the Flyers 21-9 in shot attempts and 16-2 in scoring chances during the middle frame.

In the third period, all that hard work eventually paid off.

Snapping out of a slump on the power play, the Panthers finally turned their wealth of scoring chances into a timely goal when Anthony Duclair found Bennett sneaking down towards the left side of the net for a clutch tap-in goal from in front to even things up and make it 1-1 at 3:59.

"No panic in the locker room coming into intermissions," Bennett said. "We know how talented this team is, and we knew it was only a matter of time until we got one. We just stuck with it."

With the game eventually getting to overtime, Bobrovsky came up with a game-saving stop on Cam Atkinson not long before Ekblad took a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and ripped a shot past Martin Jones at 2:39 of the extra frame to complete the comeback and lock in the 2-1 win.

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: MOOD 👇😤 pic.twitter.com/cmsuLISkaK

"Scoring in overtime is always fun," said Ekblad, who was overflowing with raw emotion after the game-winner. "It's always exciting when the whole team comes at you. You can barely breathe when they're all huddled around you there. A great game. Obviously, a hard-fought one. They did a good job getting in our face early and hitting us, but we ultimately took care of business."

Coming out on top in the goaltending battle, Bobrovsky made 32 saves, while Jones made 43.

"He stood on his head again," Bennett said of Bobrovsky. "He's been unbelievable. Even when we're not putting up a bunch of goals, we're still confident that we're going to win these games."

Looking ahead, the Panthers won't have much time to digest after Thanksgiving.

After enjoying some turkey time on Thursday, they'll then pack their overnight bags and hop a flight up north to visit the Capitals on Friday. With no time to catch their breath, they'll then turn right back around and return home to face down the expansion Kraken on Saturday in Sunrise.

But with another big win in the books, the Cats are feeling great heading into the holiday.

"I was really happy with the way we played," Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. "It maybe wasn't perfect at different stretches. It didn't come easy, which we've had a lot of nights where it has come easy. Tonight we really had to earn it. We dug in and found a way."

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's historic win in Sunrise…

1. BREAKING THROUGH

It was only a matter of time until the Panthers broke through on the power play.

Finding the back of the net with the man advantage for the first time since Nov. 6, the Panthers snapped out of that slump at the perfect time when Bennett cut to the net and tapped a smooth dish from Duclair past Jones from the doorstep to make it a 1-1 game early in the third period.

Video: PHI@FLA: Bennett completes nice passing play

"It was huge on the power play," Ekblad said. "Those timely goals are especially important. We haven't scored a ton on the power play, so that was very welcome. We're really proud of that."

Tallying a goal and an assist against the Flyers, Bennett increased his point total on the season to 12 (seven goals, five assists). In addition to those two points, he also racked up six shots on goal, three hits and one takeaway against Philadelphia, while also winning multiple key faceoffs.

"He's a force in the faceoff dot, scoring goals," Ekblad said. "If you notice, he never loses a 1-on-1 battle in the corner. He's unbelievable. An awesome guy and a great addition to our team."

2. EKBLAD'S WINNER

There's a reason Ekblad wears an "A" on his jersey.

Stepping up in a big moment, the alternate captain brought fans at FLA Live Arena to their feet when he took a pass from Huberdeau and wired home the winner right past Jones in overtime.

Video: PHI@FLA: Ekblad finishes give-and-go with Huberdeau

"It was great," Brunette said of the game-sealing goal. "I think he had 10, 11 or 12 shot attempts. He was all around it. It was nice to see him get rewarded there at the end."

Putting his name into the early-season conversation for the Norris Trophy, Ekblad, who had a goal and an assist tonight, paces Florida's defensemen with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists), and is currently riding a five-game point streak in which he's posted two goals and five assists.

When he was on the ice against the Flyers, the Panthers led 17-8 in scoring chances.

3. BOB ON A ROLL

You can't talk to Bobrovsky's teammates without hearing the word "unbelievable."

Backstopping the Panthers to yet another win, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, who is already building an early-season case for his third, turned aside 32 of 33 shots against the Flyers, including a game-saving stop overtime to set the stage for the eventual winning goal.

"He's been unbelievable," Ekblad said. "I'm really happy for him. He deserves it."

The only goaltender in franchise history to earn points in each of his first 11 decisions, Bobrovsky now sits at 9-0-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

Over those 11 decisions, he's surrendered more than two goals just three times.

"I was happy to help them when they needed me," Bobrovsky said.

Of his 32 saves tonight, 10 came from high-danger areas, per NaturalStatTrick.com.

"We have a big belief in our group," Bobrovsky said. "We have a great atmosphere."

4. THE KITCHEN SINK

The Panthers threw everything but the kitchen sink at Philadelphia's net.

Well, they might have actually thrown that as well.

By the time the final buzzer had gone off and all the dust had settled in overtime, the Panthers owned incredibly lopsided advantages over the Flyers in shot attempts (79-44), high-danger shot attempts (22-12) and scoring chances (56-27), according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Not deterred by a lack of results, they knew those chances would materialize into goals.

"When you're getting those chances, you feel that one's going to go in at some point," Ekblad said. "You just stick with the gameplan and keeping wearing them down. They're on the second half of a back-to-back. We knew that if we kept coming at them in the third, they'd get tired."

Overall, Brunette said he was impressed with how players battled through the adversity.

"I felt that it was going to be one of those games that was going to be a grind," he said. "I thought we stuck to the plan. We didn't try to force things or make high-risk plays. I think we stuck to the gameplan of getting pucks and getting on them. We had a lot of O-zone time."

The top-possession team in the NHL, Florida is controlling 56.50% of shot attempts at 5-on-5.

5. BARKOV UPDATE

Earlier this morning, Brunette provided an update on Aleksander Barkov.

Having already missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, the captain is still week-to-week in his recovery, but the good news is that he's already back on the ice and skating again.

"He's skating, but we're kind of reassessing daily," Brunette said.

Helping fill in for the superstar center with big performances like he had tonight, Bennett, who was promoted from the second to the first line after the injury, has also risen to the occasion.

"He's up for the challenge," Brunette said. "He's one of those guys that anything you give him, he's ready to go. He loves it. He's a really competitive kid. He's 'give it to me and I'll take it.' I thought he played really well tonight. Huge plays and a huge goal. He was great tonight."

Barkov won't travel to Washington on Thursday, but except more updates after the holiday.

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