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Slow-starting Panthers host Hurricanes

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers have gone four straight games without scoring a first-period goal.

They have fallen behind in each of those contests.

Further, the Panthers have trailed by at least two goals in three straight games, and they have gone scoreless in the first and second periods during those three contests.

Given those slow-starting issues, the Panthers — who host the Carolina Hurricanes again on Monday night — have to feel fortunate to go 2-1-1 over the past four games.

On Saturday night, the Panthers fell behind the Hurricanes 2-0 but rallied to earn a point, losing 4-3 in a shootout. Panthers winger Patric Hornqvist, for one, would like to see more consistency from his team.

“It was easy to play hockey in the third period — everyone was skating, and everyone was talking,” said Hornqvist, who leads the Panthers in goals (nine) and power-play tallies (five). “We have to start like that on Monday.”

The Panthers will apparently do so without winger Brett Connolly, who played 7:57 on Saturday and had 19 goals and 14 assists last season. Connolly, according to Florida Hockey Now, has been placed on waivers with two-plus years left on his four-season contract.

Meanwhile, the visiting Hurricanes have a special weapon, and it’s the shootout. They have the best shootout record in the NHL this season at 4-0. In fact, they have won their last nine shootouts over the past two seasons.

In contrast, the Hurricanes were 8-11 in shootouts in the three years prior to this run.

“We have upped the talent level around here,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said by way of explanation. “We have a lot more good options on shooters.”

Indeed, the Hurricanes won Saturday’s shootout in the fifth round with a goal by Martin Necas. Vincent Trocheck and Dougie Hamilton had Carolina’s other shootout goals.

Trocheck, who also scored in regulation on Saturday, spent parts of seven seasons with the Panthers. Florida showed a video tribute to Trocheck on the scoreboard during Saturday’s game.

Moments later, Trocheck scored. That wasn’t ideal timing for the Panthers, but it was surely satisfying for the 27-year-old Trocheck.

“It was a good feeling,” Trocheck confirmed. “I played here a long time and have good memories. To get a win against them is really special.”

Trocheck, who leads the Hurricanes with 10 goals, was an All-Star with the Panthers in 2016-17. He scored 23 goals that season and followed with a career-high 31 the next season, and he is currently experiencing a rebirth of his scoring touch.

But Trocheck wasn’t the only former Panthers player who tortured the Florida side on Saturday. Goalie James Reimer made 28 saves through regulation and overtime, and then he made three more stops in the shootout to earn the victory.

Reimer, who is 9-3-0 with a 2.97 goals-against average this season, could earn the start once again on Monday.

For the Panthers, there has been no announcement yet on whether it will be Sergei Bobrovsky, who was in the net on Saturday, or Chris Driedger.

Those two have split the starts this season, and the plan is working so far for the Panthers. Bobrovsky is 6-2-2 with a 3.02 GAA. Driedger is 7-2-1 with a 2.18 GAA.

Bobrovsky seemed pleased with Saturday’s effort in which he had 30 saves through regulation and overtime.

“It was a really solid game and a big point for us,” Bobrovsky said. “For me personally, I just have to be better in shootouts.”

Indeed, the Panthers are 1-2 in shootouts this season. Bobrovsky is 1-1. Driedger is 0-1.

–Field Level Media

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