Panthers get big night from Marchment, new-look third line to close road trip with win

FRED GREENSLADE/AP
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The Florida Panthers finally felt their road frustrations bubble up Sunday. They lost the Seattle Kraken — an expansion team with the third worst record in the league — and Andrew Brunette called their effort, particularly at the starts of games during this five-game road trip, “unacceptable.”

He took it, in part, upon himself to find a solution, so he reshuffled the Panthers lines and found some results with three goals in the first period. There will still be plenty to pick over from the finale of its longest road trip of the season so far, but Florida will return to Sunrise with a winning record on the trip after pulling out a 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in Canada.

“Our compete level was higher than it was the other night,” Brunette said. “We did the things we had to do to win a hockey game. At times, it wasn’t really pretty, but I thought we managed the puck real well and gave us a chance to play in their zone.”

The Panthers got two goals and an assist from left wing Mason Marchment in the first period as their revamped third line — featuring Marchment, rookie center Anton Lundell and forward Sam Reinhart — set the tone on offense. Still, they let the Jets answer every one of those goals, blowing 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 leads in the first 23:30 before forward Carter Verhaeghe finally buried Winnipeg for good with a game-winning goal with 10:18 left in the second period.

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The win was only Florida’s fifth in its last 16 on the road, but the Panthers (29-9-5) mostly played the type of game they had been searching for away from home, taking an early lead and eventually wearing down an overmatched opponent with their depth.

The Jets (17-15-7) outshot Florida, 14-10, in the first period and then the Panthers outshot them 22-21 the rest of the way with a massive 26-12 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances. Although it was an atypical road test with only 250 in attendance at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre because of COVID-19 restrictions, it was still a needed win for Florida after its frustrating loss in Seattle on Sunday.

“We just kind of wanted to bounce back and play a solid road game,” Verhaeghe said. “We did a good job coming out in the first and kind of responding there.”

After the upset loss, the Panthers made changes on three of their four lines. Winger Maxim Mamin joined Verhaeghe and star center Aleksander Barkov on the top line, Reinhart dropped from the first line to the third to join Marchment and Lundell, and right wing Owen Tippett joining center Eetu Luostarinen and left wing Ryan Lomberg on the fourth. Although the Jets controlled possession throughout the first period, the changes paid off right away: Florida generated 11 scoring chances and six high-danger chances, and the third line dominated, scoring all three of Florida’s first-period goals in Manitoba.

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In the 4:13 their third line was on the ice in the first period, the Panthers outshot Winnipeg, 6-0, with a 5-0 edge in scoring chances and a 4-0 edge in shots on goal to outscore the Jets, 3-0.

“We just jell really well together,” said Marchment, who played on a line with Lundell and Reinhart early in the season. “Hopefully, we can keep building that chemistry.”

Of course, the first 24 minutes were far from perfect. Winnipeg attempted 22 shots in the first period and beat star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky three times in their first 17 shots on goal, including once after a particularly bad defensive breakdown left Jets center Pierre-Luc Dubois all alone in front of the goal to knot the score at 3-3 with 16:30 left in the second.

A little more than six minutes later, Verhaeghe came through with the response Florida needed. Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad took a slap shot from the point while Verhaeghe roamed around the net to deliver the rebound goal. Bennett padded the lead with 7:50 left in the third period, Bobrovsky stopped the final 18 shots he faced and the Panthers wrapped up their first winning road trip since the first month of the season.

“We’re maturing as a group and we’re not perfect, but that’s a good step,” Brunette said. “On the road, end of a road trip these games are games that a lot of times when you’re done your trip and you’re looking forward, not to the present. I thought tonight we stayed in the present.”

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