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5 Takeaways: Panthers Ride Record-Setting 2nd Period to Win Over Stars

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/22/21 Post Game Interviews

2/22/21 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Aleksander Barkov, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar and goaltender Chris Driedger

  • 01:20 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Like most of us watching either from in the stands or on the couch, Chris Driedger sat back and enjoyed the show the Panthers put on during the second period tonight.

Scoring a pair of goals while firing off a franchise-record 29 shots over the course of a dominant middle frame, the Cats went on to secure a 3-1 win over the Stars at BB&T Center on Monday.

"It was a pleasure to watch," said Driedger, who picked up his fourth straight victory in net. "The guys went to work in the second. I haven't seen a period that dominant in a long time. The guys did a great job. For me, I'm just trying to stay in it. "Dobby [Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin] was kind of standing on his head over there. It would be a bit of a killer if I'd let [a goal] in there, so I was just trying to stay sharp and stay solid so the boys could get some momentum going."

Hitting the ice for the first time since Feb. 13 after having four games postponed due to extreme weather conditions in Dallas, the Stars struck first tonight when Blake Comeau crashed toward the net and whacked a loose puck past Driedger to make it 1-0 a mere 4:29 into the first period.

With time winding down in the opening frame, Driedger then helped keep the deficit to just 1-0 when he denied a breakaway attempt from Roope Hintz. Skating in all alone, Hintz tried to slip the puck through Driedger's five-hole, but the opening was sealed shut just in the nick of time.

Feeding off a strong finish to the first period, the Panthers took over the game in the second.

Putting up a franchise-record 29 shots on goal during the middle frame, two of them ended up getting past Khudobin, who did his best to limit the damage. After Aaron Ekblad blasted home a slap shot to make it 1-1 at 8:41, Keith Yandle buried a slapper of his own to make it 2-1 at 18:18.

If you missed tonight's game and are just catching up with this article, it's hard to truly convey just how dominant the Panthers looked during the second. They were executing with ease in the offensive zone and also breaking up nearly every attempt up the ice that the Stars tried to make.

That being said, the fact Florida led 42-5 in shot attempts during the period paints a nice picture.

"The first [period] we were off to a little bit of a bumpy start, but we found our legs in the second and it showed," said Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, who assisted on Ekblad's goal. "We just kept coming at them. Give credit to the goalie over there, he made some big saves."

Slamming the door shut in the third, Driedger stopped all 11 shots he faced over the final 20 minutes, while captain Aleksander Barkov put the game away with an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left in regulation to make it 3-1 and complete a thrilling performance for the Panthers.

Accumulating more than 50 shots in a game for the 13th time in franchise history, the Panthers ended up finishing the contest with 52, which is just three shy of the franchise's all-time record.

"They had a pretty good first period," Barkov said of the Stars. "They weren't all over us, but they were skating pretty hard, kind of almost first on the pucks everywhere. Then in the second period we did the same to them. We obviously created a lot of chances in their zone."

Improving to 12-3-2, the Panthers moved right back into first place in the Central Division with tonight's win after the Lightning also defeated the Hurricanes in Carolina. As for the reigning Western Conference champions, the Stars have lost six straight games to fall to 5-4-4.

Bouncing back once again, Florida is now 5-0-0 in games following losses this season.

"The guys are coming to play each and every night, doing what we have to do," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "Playing right has been very noticeable... If you play hard and you play with purpose, you give yourself a chance shift in, shift out."

Here are five takeaways from Monday's win in Sunrise…

1. TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN

Ekblad reached the top of the goal-scoring ladder among defensemen tonight.

After ripping a shot past Khudobin at 8:41 of the second period to pull the Panthers even at 1-1, the 25-year-old also moved into a three-way tie with Edmonton's Darnell Nurse and Montreal's Jeff Petry for the most goals by an NHL blueliner this season with already his sixth goal thus far.

Video: DAL@FLA: Ekblad hammers home a heavy slap shot

"We were just trying to roll around in the offensive zone to try and create something," Ekblad said of the scoring sequence. "I think we got them moving, got them tired. I think it deflected off one of their guy's sticks and went it. It's a fortunate bounce and we were lucky to get it."

Of course, filling up the back of the net is nothing new for Ekblad. Since entering the league in 2014-15, the former first-overall pick ranks tied for eighth among NHL defensemen in goals with 77 - a sizeable total that also currently stands as the franchise's all-time record for a blueliner.

In 17 games this season, Ekblad has recorded 11 points (six goals, five assists).

2. YANDLE FROM DEEP

Ending a dominant second period with an exclamation point, Yandle found the back of the net.

Cutting off an attempted clearing attempt from the Stars just below the blue line, the offensive-minded defenseman fired off a quick slap shot through traffic and straight past Khudobin to give the Panthers their first lead of the night at 2-1 with just 1:42 left the clock in the middle frame.

Video: DAL@FLA: Yandle beats Khudobin with a slap shot

"It's great playing in front of our crowd and having a good game at home," Yandle said.

The scoring leader among Florida's defensemen, Yandle has recorded 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 17 games this season, including racking up one goal and four assists over the course of his last four outings. Of those 13 points, nine have come while on the power play.

3. GOING BIG IN THE SECOND

There's no other way of putting it, the Panthers simply took it to the Stars in the second period.

In addition to receiving timely goals from Ekblad and Yandle, the Panthers finished the middle frame with comically lopsided advantages over the Stars in shots (29-4), shot attempts (42-5), high-danger shot attempts (9-0) and scoring chances (19-1), according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Making history, those 29 shots are the most Florida's ever recorded in a single period.

"It was fun to watch," Quenneville said. "The guys really had a lot of energy and great speed. With our exits and our transition game, the changes almost looked like we had an odd-man rush coming. We just kept doing it. I liked the rotation. I liked the speed of our game tonight."

Winning more than just the battle on the scoresheet, the Panthers also got a boost during the period when alternate captain Patric Hornqvist dropped the gloves with Stars defenseman John Klingberg after some roughhousing right around the crease boiled over into full-blown fisticuffs.

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: Hornqvist and Klingberg drop the gloves. 🥊 pic.twitter.com/6Wzc9P7nb9

During the ensuring brawl, Hornqvist connected on more than a few shots to claim victory.

"A great fight between two Swedes," Barkov said, cracking a smile. "Horny is a great teammate, a great leader. He'd do anything for the team… We were already going, but that still gave us an extra boost. To have a guy like him on the ice, in the locker room and on the bench is huge."

4. ANOTHER WIN FOR DRIEDGER

Another game, another win for Driedger.

In stopping 24 of 25 shots, the 26-year-old improved to 7-1-1 on the season. With tonight's game serving as the sixth time this year that he's allowed two-or-fewer goals in a game, he currently boasts a 2.20 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in nine appearances.

"He made a couple big saves after the first goal," Quenneville said of Driedger. "I thought he settled down a little bit. In the third there he still found a way to battle and kept his composure in tight situations. He does what he has to do. I like the way he keeps moving on here."

Across the ice, the Panthers also tipped their hat to Khudobin, who made 49 saves in defeat.

"He was great last year in the playoffs, too," Barkov said. "He carried Dallas. He was in a big role for Dallas to get them to the Finals. He's doing that this season, too. He's a great goalie… He did a great job today. Facing 50-plus shots is not an easy thing. I think we did a good job."

5. OH, HI MARK!

The Panthers welcomed back "The Prius" tonight.

Prior to joining the Stars as a free agent during the offseason, Mark Pysyk, who was given the automotive-themed nickname by Yandle for his ability to switch from defense to forward at the drop of hat, registered 17 goals and 45 assists in 292 games over four seasons with Florida.

"It's going to be, I think, a little weird to be going back to a place where I spent the last four years," Pysyk told the Dallas Morning News. "Definitely going to be weird. It's a new journey."

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: A nice ovation for @mpysyk03!Great dude during his time in Florida. pic.twitter.com/aW80zkRHz4

Receiving a nice ovation from the crowd in his return to Sunrise, fans likely remember Pysyk most for his improbable hat trick during a 5-3 win against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 3, 2020.

"If it was last year or next year you'd see the guy before or go to dinner or something like that," Yandle said when asked about getting to see his former teammate tonight. "For us, it's just you see them on the ice. Not really a lot of time to catch up. It's always good to see a familiar face."

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