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5 Takeaways: Panthers Open 4-Game Homestand with Loss to Coyotes

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

1/7/20 Post Game Interviews

1/7/20 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Noel Acciari and goaltender Chris Driedger.

  • 01:10 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Joel Quenneville said he was disappointed after the Florida Panthers opened their four-game homestand with a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at BB&T Center on Tuesday.

Leading 2-1 near the midway point of the second period, the Panthers went on to surrender four straight goals to the Coyotes, falling to 22-16-5 with just their fourth loss in their last 11 contests.

"All of the sudden you're up 2-1, and then you give up two quick ones and it changes the whole complexion of the game," Quenneville said. "I didn't think we generated anything much in the third. We had some decent looks, but not enough. We can't be happy with that."

Following a scoreless first period, the game really opened up in the second.

After Christian Dvorak broke the ice and put the Coyotes on top 1-0 with a power-play goal at 10:20, the Panthers quickly answered with two goals of their own in less than a minute. After Noel Acciari tied it 1-1 at 11:21, Mike Hoffman made it 2-1 a mere 36 seconds later at 11:57.

At 13:33, Oliver Ekman-Larsson buried a short-side snipe to tie the game 2-2 for Arizona. Then, with the Panthers facing a 4-on-3 power play, Taylor Hall roofed a goal to make it 3-2 at 15:39.

"Playing catch-up is not a great formula," Quenneville said, once again citing a slow start. "I think that was a game tonight where we didn't seize it early in the game or at least dictate it."

In the third period, Carl Soderberg scored on a breakaway to put the Coyotes up 4-2 at 17:58. Not long after, Lawson Crouse's empty-net goal made it 5-2 with 48 seconds left in regulation.

Adin Hill made 37 saves for Arizona, while Chris Driedger stopped 32 of 36 shots for Florida.

"Definitely disappointing," Acciari said. "We played hard in the third, but it just didn't go our way there. These are big games for us right now with how close our division is. Especially being at home, we have to make sure we get at least a point out of it. We're back at it Thursday." Moving forward, Quenneville wants to see the Panthers be more consistent with their effort. "That all-out relentless is sporadic," he said.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's loss in Sunrise…

1. ANOTHER GOAL FOR NOEL

The goals just keep coming.

Separating himself from a defender in the slot, Acciari re-directed a long shot from Keith Yandle into the net to get the Panthers on the board and tie the game 1-1 at 11:21 of the second period.

Video: ARI@FLA: Acciari deflects Yandle's shot by Hill

"Yands found me there," Acciari said of the timely goal. "Just go to the front of the net and good things will happen. I've got to give a lot of credit to my linemates. They're great with the puck. They open up a lot of space and make it easy for me to sit in front of the net."

One of the hottest goal-scorers in the league at the moment, Acciari has lit the lamp 10 times over his last 11 games, including netting a pair of hat tricks. In his first season with Florida, the 28-year-old winger has already reached new career-highs in both goals (15) and points (18).

Since Dec. 16, Acciari's 10 goals are tied for the most in the league.

2. HOFFMAN KEEPS IT

Less than a minute after Acciari's tally, the Cats struck again.

Sent up the ice with a pinpoint pass from Riley Stillman, Hoffman flew into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 break with Dominic Toninato. Opting to shoot rather than pass, he then wired a wicked wrist shot right over Hill's blocker to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead at 11:57 of the second period.

Video: ARI@FLA: Hoffman rips puck in off iron on the rush

Producing at a point-per-game clip over his last nine games, Hoffman has notched three goals and six assists in that span. The 28-year-old winger is currently tied for fourth on Florida in goals (15) and ranks fifth in points (32). Never afraid to shoot, he also paces the club with 117 shots.

3. STILLMAN'S STREAK

With his assist on Hoffman's goal, Stillman is now on the first point streak of his NHL career.

Recalled from AHL Springfield on Dec. 27, the 21-year-old defenseman has tallied an assist in each of his last two games while playing alongside Anton Stralman on Florida's second pairing.

Prior to joining the Panthers, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound rearguard notched six points (three goals, three assists) in 25 games with Springfield. A fourth-round pick (114th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, the rookie has racked up three assists, 11 hits and 17 blocks in 10 games this season.

Since his call-up, Stillman has averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time in seven games played.

4. DRIEDGER KEEPS IT CLOSE

Driedger kept the Panthers in the game throughout the third period.

With his team trailing 3-2, the 25-year-old goaltender made a few big stops -- including stoning Hall on a breakaway -- to keep the deficit manageable until the final few minutes of the game.

"He made a couple of big saves there at 3-2," Quenneville said. "I thought he was fine."

While the Coyotes potted a pair of goals on the power play -- including one while on a 4-on-3 advantage -- Driedger looked sharp at 5-on-5 while stopping 27 of 29 shots. Of the four goals that he surrendered, two of them were helped by Arizona's ability to get bodies in front of him.

"There was a lot, especially in the second period," Driedger said of the screens and traffic that Arizona generated around the crease. "They do a good job of their getting their guys in front."

In seven games this season, Driedger is 4-2-0 with a .935 save percentage and one shutout.

5. MORE TO COME

Florida's homestand is only just beginning.

With one down and three left to play, the team will continue its defense of home ice this week with tilts against the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. After that, they'll close the homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 16.

"I think everybody's pretty well in that [playoff] mix basically across the board," Quenneville said of the road ahead. "It's going to make for a great run here. Obviously this was not what we were looking for, but let's get excited about Vancouver."

The Panthers own a 13-8-2 record at home this season.

For tickets to upcoming games, visit FloridaPanthers.com/TicketCentral.

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