Despite jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first period on goal from Aleksander Barkov, the Panthers went on surrender three goals during the second period of an eventual 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday - their sixth loss through the first seven games of their season series.
That being said, the margin between victory and defeat continues to be razor thin.
With the Cats leading the Canes by a score of 10-8 at 5-on-5, the majority of outcomes in the increasingly heated season series have been decided on special teams. And that was certainly the case on Thursday, as Carolina scored once on the power play and twice while shorthanded.
Unable to match that output, the Panthers went 1-for-9 with the extra attacker in that game, but had more than their fair share of chances. Per NaturalStatTrick.com, they fired off over 20 shot attempts on the power play, with the majority of those looks coming during a strong third period.
Not long after Barkov lit the lamp once again while on a 6-on-4 advantage to make it a 3-2 game at 12:02, Jonathan Huberdeau came oh-so-close to netting the game-tying goal while on a 5-on-4 power play, but was denied by a simply stunning glove save from goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Looking ahead to tonight's rematch, the Panthers hope to feed off the intensity of that finish.
"I think we showed a lot of desperation here in the last game against them in the third period," said Panthers forward Patric Hornqvist, who leads the team with eight goals on the power play. "I thought we were the better team in that third period, and they were better in the second. The first period was pretty split. We just have to come up with the same desperation level."
After pocketing a pair of goals on Thursday, Barkov increased his team-leading total to 21, which also secured his franchise-record sixth straight season with at least 20 goals. On an impressive scoring tear, the Panthers captain has recorded 13 goals over his last 17 games.
Barkov also ranks second on the team in scoring with 48 points, trailing only Huberdeau's 50. On a six-game point streak, Huberdeau has recorded two goals and six assists in that span.
Returning to the crease for the first time since April 15, Chris Driedger is expected to get the start for the Panthers tonight. Owning a 12-5-3 record this season, the 26-year-old has been heating up in recent weeks, going 5-2-1 with a .939 save percentage over his last eight starts.
As for the Hurricanes, Nedeljkovic is expected to slide back between the pipes after turning aside 32 of 34 shots on Thursday. Sitting at 12-4-2 on the season, the 25-year-old goaltender is currently riding a four-game winning streak in which he's stopped 109 of 113 shots (.965%).
Up front, Sebastian Aho, who was credited with a pair of shorthanded goals on Thursday, leads Carolina in both goals (20) and points (43). Not far behind him, Vincent Trocheck ranks second on the team in points (38) and is tied with Nino Niederreiter for the second-most goals with 17.
With both teams destined for the playoffs but still fighting for first place in the Central Division, the Panthers (30-13-5) currently trail the Hurricanes (31-10-5) by just two points for the top spot.
"Obviously, we're looking for a better result," Quenneville said. "There's been stretches every game where we've been doing a lot of good things. … You've got to have a purpose behind every shift. We need good energy. These guys check well. They play a very organized game. … You've got to be playing that game accordingly and limit your mistakes, keep the pressure up."
FLA: 30-13-5, 65 PTS
CAR: 31-10-5, 67 PTS
FLA all-time vs. CAR: 51-54-11-15
-- Aleksander Barkov leads Florida in goals (21) and shots on goal (155), while also ranking second in points (46). Over his last 11 games, he's accumulated eight goals and three assists.
-- Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists). In 30 career games against the Hurricanes, he's produced 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists).
-- Sam Bennett has tallied three goals and two assists in his first four games with Florida.
-- MacKenzie Weegar leads all Panthers defensemen in scoring with a career-high 25 points, while also ranking tied for fourth among all NHL blueliners in even-strength points with 23.
-- Patric Hornqvist ranks fifth on the Panthers in goals (14), including eight on the power play.
-- Radko Gudas leads Florida and ranks first in the NHL in hits with 213.
-- Anthony Duclair has recorded 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his last eight games.
-- Frank Vatrano has lit the lamp seven times over his last 12 games to move into a tie for second on the Panthers with 17 goals, including a team-leading six game-winning scores.
-- After missing the last four games with a lower-body injury, Noel Acciari skated with the Panthers this morning and could return to the lineup on the team's upcoming road trip.
PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Nikita Gusev - Aleksander Barkov - Patric Hornqvist
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Ryan Lomberg
Eetu Luostarinen - Juho Lammikko - Owen Tippett
Gustav Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Markus Nutivaara - Brandon Montour
Keith Yandle - Radko Gudas
Scratches: Lucas Wallmark, Matt Kiersted, Noah Juulsen, Anton Stralman, Spencer Knight, Marchment (upper body), Carter Verhaeghe (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body)
Taxi squad: Kevin Connauton, Scott Wilson, Cole Schwindt, Philippe Desrosiers
Injured reserve: Aaron Ekblad (lower body)
- April 17: F Cole Schwindt and F Scott Wilson were reassigned from AHL Syracuse to the Taxi Squad; F Aleksi Heponiemi, D Lucas Carlsson and D Brady Keeper were reassigned from the Taxi Squad to AHL Syracuse.
- April 14: D Brandon Montour and D Noah Juulsen were activated to Florida's active roster.
- April 13: F Sam Bennett and F Nikita Gusev were added to Florida's to active roster; F Anthony Duclair was activated from IR; F Lucas Wallmark and G Spencer Knight were recalled from the Taxi Squad; D Kevin Connauton was loaned to the Taxi Squad.
- 50/50 Raffle
- Presented by Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Panthers will host their annual "Hockey Fights Cancer Night" throughout tonight's game. In addition to players donning special jerseys during warmups, the first 1,500 fans to enter the building will receive a purple rally towel courtesy of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
-- As part of "Hockey Fights Cancer Night," two-time cancer survivor and musical theater enthusiast Molly Oldham will sing the National Anthem prior to tonight's game. An incredible story of perseverance, Molly was diagnosed with Stage 3 anaplastic ependymoma in August 2019, had a recurrence in January 2021, and received her final chemotherapy treatment last week.
- A limited number of fans will be admitted to BB&T Center for home games this season. Learn that have been taken as a part of the "Red Reminders" program presented in conjunction with Baptist Health South Florida at FloridaPanthers.com/RedReminders.
- Mobile Ordering is now available at BB&T Center for Panthers games. Visit FloridaPanthers.com/MobileOrdering for all the info.
HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN
When: Saturday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV: Bally Sports Florida
Stream: FOX Sport GO
Radio: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 850 WFTL (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 107.9 FM/1370 AM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM Ch. 220 / Streaming Ch. 932