SUNRISE, Fla.–Heading into Saturday’s matinee showdown, the Golden Knights entered a game without sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division for the first time since the season’s opening week. To add to the motivational pot on Saturday was the fact that they were heading back to the arena they conquered in the most recent Stanley Cup Fina to take on a Panthers team that is starting to find a regular season stride after their improbable run to the finals.
And yet, all that motivation wasn’t enough. The Knights were outmatched in the third period, giving up two-goals-to-none after the first 40 minutes of the game were tightly contested. It was good for their third consecutive loss, ensuring a winless three game Southern road trip.
How it happened
The first period was uneventful as far as scoring goes, with neither team tallying a goal. The Knights were outplayed regardless but escaped the period unscathed. It was an eventful period for Keegan Kolesar, who dropped the gloves for a tilt with Ryan Lomberg and was promptly sent chest-first into the ice.
The second period had enough fireworks to make up for the slow scoring pace early. Mark Stone opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season just 1:21 into the second period, courtesy of a primary assist from Ivan Barbashev.
Nearing the nine minute mark of the middle stanza, Sam Bennett snuck a hard wrister by Jiri Patera to put the Panthers knot the score at 1-1. The Panthers made it two in a row with five minutes remaining in the period when Gustav Forsling activated his sniper on a slap shot that went right by Patera.
With 23 seconds remaining in the second period, Pavel Dorofeyev sent a feed from Ben Hutton into the back of the net to tie the game at 2 for the Knights headed into the second intermission. The problem was that was the last Knights goal of the afternoon.
The Panthers pulled away in the third by scoring on back-to-back powerplays, courtesy of Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart. The game ended with more bad blood, with Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Pietrangelo leading a scramble that ended with 54 minutes of total penalties to end the game.
The Knights are off until Thursday, when they will meet the Ducks in Anaheim for a 7 p.m. PST puck drop at the Honda Center.