Panthers penalty kill delivers when it matters most in Game 3

SUNRISE, Fla. — On a night when the Florida Panthers struggled on special teams, they were able to get a big penalty kill in overtime before completing the comeback for a 3-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena on Thursday.

Through regulation, the Panthers were 0-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-5 on the penalty kill, both of which captain Aleksander Barkov said needs to improve if they want to even the best-of-7 series in Game 4 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; TNT, TBS, truTV, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“I still think we took too many penalties, and maybe cut those in half or even more,” Barkov said. “I know we let them score two goals. We’ve got to learn from that, but I think in crucial moments like overtime or some other moments, we play really well on the PK and get us momentum, especially in overtime.”

Florida began overtime on the penalty kill after defenseman Gustav Forsling was called for tripping with 12 seconds remaining in the third period, 2:01 after Matthew Tkachuk tied it 2-2 with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on the bench for an extra attacker.

The Panthers, however, only allowed one shot during the power play, that coming from Mark Stone with five seconds left in the third.

“It would have been nice to get one obviously right away (in overtime),” Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We had, what, two on the power play? So we’ve got to take that. It would have been nice to get one there on the power play in overtime, but I don’t really think that bothered us there very much.”

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For the Panthers, the penalty kill helped them forget about their special teams woes, at least for one night.

“The penalty kill, if you kill it, if you play really well, it gives you a little momentum there, and obviously you get the crowd going,” Barkov said. “After that we just played with the confidence.”

Now what needs confidence is the power play, which is 0-for-12 in the series. Adjustments are clearly needed, but that is something the Panthers have been able to do throughout the playoffs. 

In the first round against the Boston Bruins, the Panthers were 0-for-7 with the man-advantage in the first three games of the series, including allowing one short-handed goal. In the final four games, they were 5-for-13 (38.5 percent).

Against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, the Panthers were 0-for-2 in the first two games of the series. In the final three games, they went 3-for-7 (42.9 percent).

Florida again didn’t score in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes (0-for-3), but in the next three games, it went 4-for-11 (36.4 percent).

“We’ve been trying to go with more pace on the power play,” Panthers forward Sam Reinhart said. “I think there’s some adjustments we can make. We can see it tomorrow. Special teams are huge at this time of year, 5-on-5 there’s not much room. On the kill, they made some incredible plays early. They were able to stick with it. Big one at the start of overtime, and you want to carry that confidence into next game.”

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