Takeaways as Sergei Bobrovsky leads Florida Panthers to win over Pittsburgh Penguins

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As the Florida Panthers tried to find their offensive game through the first 30-plus minutes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, they needed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to do anything he could to keep the game competitive.

And as he has time and time again already this season, Bobrovsky was up to the task.

Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced and the Florida Panthers rallied from a second-period deficit to beat the Penguins 3-1 at Amerant Bank Arena.

The Panthers (16-8-2) finished their homestand with back-to-back wins after dropping their previous three home games as they prepare for a five-game road trip. The Penguins (11-12-3) have lost four consecutive games.

“Our goaltending has been really good this year, but there haven’t been. a lot of nights where we asked them to be the dominant player,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “He’s had some great games for us, but tonight, certainly he had to be the difference.”

The offense eventually backed up its goaltender.

With the game tied 1-1, Eetu Luostarinen put the Panthers ahead for good with 13:50 left to play when he crashed to the net to corral a rebound from an Evan Rodrigues shot and flicked the puck past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. It was Luostarinen’s third goal of the season.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson tied the game with 2:56 left in the second period by poking a loose puck past Jarry with a sea of bodies in front of the crease.

Aleksander Barkov capped scoring with an empty-net goal with 26.7 seconds left.

Anton Lundell had an assist on each of the Panthers’ first two goals for just his second multi-point game of the season.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) celebrates after being named the first star of his NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Amerant Bank Arena on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) celebrates after being named the first star of his NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Amerant Bank Arena on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com

Bobrovsky’s dominance in net

Bobrovsky is now 13-6-1 through his first 20 starts of the season. Friday was the fifth time this season Bobrovsky has held an opponent to one goal or fewer. He has allowed three goals or fewer in 16 of those 20 starts, including 10 of his past 11.

Two highlights came when he stopped Jake Guentzel on a breakaway attempt early in the second period and when he denied Sidney Crosby from up close following a takeaway in the Panthers’ defensive zone midway through the third period.

“It was fun,” Bobrovsky said. “It was a great challenge. This wasn’t easy for us, but we stick together to each other, just chip away and found a way to get two points against a really good team.”

The only goal Bobrovsky allowed came on a backhanded shot from in front of the net by Pittsburgh’s Reilly Smith 8:05 into the second period.

Florida Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) scores a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period of their NHL game at the Amerant Bank Arena on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com
Florida Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (91) scores a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period of their NHL game at the Amerant Bank Arena on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com

Ekman-Larsson racking up the goals

Ekman-Larsson’s second-period goal was his seventh in 26 games with the Panthers. He is tied with the Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar and the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty for the second-most goals among defensemen, trailing only the Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes (nine).

The seven goals also matches Ekman-Larsson’s total for his entire two-season stint with the Canucks — 133 games — before signing with the Panthers this offseason.

Ekman-Larsson is on pace for 22 goals this season, which would be one shy of his single-season career high of 23 set during the 2014-15 season with the Arizona Coyotes.

On the road again

Next up for the Panthers: Their longest trip of the season, with each of their next five games on the road.

The full schedule: 1 p.m. Sunday at the Columbus Blue Jackets, 10 p.m. Tuesday against the Seattle Kraken, 10 p.m. Thursday against the Canucks, 10 p.m. Dec. 16 against the Edmonton Oilers and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 18 against the Calgary Flames.