Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals and Spencer Knight scored his first career NHL shutout to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-0 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center tonight.
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The loss brought Anaheim’s winning streak to a season-high six games (0-4-2). The Ducks are now 27-26-11 (65 points) sixth in the Pacific Division for the season.
“It was a tough hockey game” Troy Terry called. “I give them credit. They’re a good hockey team. There’s a reason they’re where they are. We just gave them too much respect. I don’t know if that was it, but I felt like us .” We didn’t execute the plays and we didn’t move the puck effectively. When you do that, you battle it out and you have a team that can make plays, it’s hard to create anything offensively. “
“There were times I thought we were connected and there were times we weren’t,” added head coach Dallas Eakins. “Where we’re at right now, everyone in our line-up has to play 100 percent, especially against a team like this. We have some guys on our lineup that have taken on big roles, guys that haven’t been on our lineup before, whether they’ve been in San Diego or in and out of our lineup. It’s a massive, massive challenge, especially when you’re playing against arguably the best team in the league.
John Gibson stopped 39 of 42 shots in his 45th start.
Huberdeau, the NHL leader in assists, scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season in the first half, providing all the offense his rookie goaltender needed. Knight, a 20-year-old Connecticut native, stopped all 17 shots he faced, becoming the youngest goaltender in the NHL to make a shutout this season.
Longtime San Jose forward Joe Thornton also scored for Florida. Thornton is second among active players in career standings against Anaheim (19-57=76), a point behind Anze Kopitar.
The Ducks quickly learned why the Panthers’ offense trampled the rest of the league as Florida overtook Anaheim 19-4 in the opening frame and took a 2-0 lead through back-to-back goals from Huberdeau.
Despite an early lead, the night got off to a disastrous start for Florida when defenseman Aaron Ekblad awkwardly collided with teammate Aleksander Barkov while attempting a check Cam Fowler along the boards. Ekblad crawled to the Florida bench, apparently unable to put any weight on his right leg, and did not return.
A former No. 1, Ekblad leads the Panthers defenseman in almost every key statistical category, including points (57), goals (15), assists (42), plus/minus (+38) and average ice time (25:19 ). .
The first period also saw a lot of intensity and a bit of animosity. The teams initially gathered for a friendly chat after Panthers forward Mason Marchment was flagged for goaltender interference when he crashed into Gibson from the onslaught.
Moments later, Florida defender Radko Gudas left his feet to score Simon Benoit along the boards and was promptly introduced Nicolas Deslaurierswho quickly and easily dispatched Gudas after dropping the gloves.
Huberdeau put Florida ahead with six minutes from time, beating Gibson out of the slot with a one-timer and then doubling the lead with a similar looking play seven seconds from time, taking advantage of a Ducks defensive zone collapse.
The Ducks almost got back in play early in the middle frame on a Derek Grant and Max Comtois 2v1 charge but Comtois failed to convert Grant’s backdoor pass as his bid narrowly seeped past the net.
The Panthers, as they had done for many of their rivals throughout the season, quickly made the Ducks pay for the missed opportunity, with Thornton hitting home a rebound off the side of the net to put the visitors three ahead .
That would be more than enough for Knight, who snuffed out some good Anaheim scoring chances in the third game en route to the shutout and his 16th career win.
Anaheim continues their three-game home streak against Nashville on Monday.