The Florida Panthers spent all of last week battling a goaltender problem, but Sergei Bobrovsky provided some necessary relief on Saturday night in Detroit.
Bobrovsky, who is the main source of Florida’s difficulty in net, was back in the crease after missing two games with an upper-body injury. The two-time Vezina Trophy recipient registered 27 saves as the Panthers earned an important 4-1 win over the reeling Red Wings.
The Panthers will need a similar showing Monday when Florida visits the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul, Minn.
Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million contract, was injured last weekend prior to the Panthers’ game Sunday against Atlantic Division rival Toronto. Florida’s high-flying offense staked goaltender Chris Driedger to a six-goal lead, however, and the club went on to post an 8-4 win over the Maple Leafs.
With Sam Montembeault again as his backup Thursday against Los Angeles, Driedger was injured in the game’s first 10 minutes. Montembeault, 23, came on in relief and held down the crease in Florida’s 4-3 win over the Kings.
But Saturday’s news on Driedger wasn’t good. The 25-year-old Winnipeg native’s lower-body injury will keep him out at least a couple of weeks, turning over more of the work to Montembeault.
Bobrovsky was exactly what Florida needed Saturday, yielding just a breakaway goal to Dylan Larkin as a penalty ended. The 31-year-old Russian also stuffed a pair of breakaways with his club up nursing a 2-1 lead in the third period.
“I missed only two games, but it feels like I haven’t played for a whole month,” Bobrovsky said. “The guys helped me get into the game, the (penalty kill) was pretty good and we scored important goals, especially the third one.”
Florida’s potent power play, which failed to score on its first five man advantages, gave the Panthers some breathing room when it tallied on its sixth and final one for a 3-1 edge with 6:55 left in regulation. Captain Aleksander Barkov chipped in defenseman Keith Yandle’s point shot for the goal.
The Panthers bring their season-best four-game winning streak to Xcel Energy Center, and the Wild have now won two straight after dropping four a in a row (0-3-1).
Minnesota owns a 10-0-2 career home mark against Florida, with the Panthers’ most-recent victory being a 3-2 shootout win on March 9, 2010.
The Wild are also coming off their most dominating performance this season, Saturday night’s 7-0 trouncing of the visiting Dallas Stars. It was the second time in franchise history Minnesota recorded a 7-0 shutout.
Seven different Wild players scored, with Jason Zucker recording in a three-point performance (one goal, two assists).
Goalie Alex Stalock stopped all 27 shots by the Stars to record his second shutout this season and seventh career. He moved to 7-1-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .924 save percentage at home.
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said he was happy to see his squad put together a complete effort.
“We’ve played games 45 minutes, 55 minutes, but you had that lull. I never felt there was a lull (tonight) where we were doing the wrong things and we got carried away, cheating the game type thing,” Boudreau said. “I thought we played the right way for 60 minutes.”
—Field Level Media