ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) If the Florida Panthers thrive on chaos – as interim head coach Tom Rowe described their recent penchant for high-scoring games – they are starting to learn how to channel it in the right way.
The Panthers delivered another offensive outburst in their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night. But this time, it was fueled from their defense, with Jaromir Jagr scoring the go-ahead goal in the second period and James Reimer making 35 saves for their third consecutive win.
”We want to put up big numbers, but we’re not going to do it at a cost of defense,” Rowe said. ”When you have a young group and they are trying to figure it out in this league, those are just lessons you learn as you go along.”
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Colton Sceviour had a goal, Aaron Ekblad scored on the power play and Derek MacKenzie added an empty-net goal, giving the Panthers six wins in their last seven games. Florida now trails Toronto by one point for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
But after giving up 15 goals in their last three games, the Panthers were able to lock down on defense without sacrificing offense. In fact, it was a knack for heady, low-risk plays that kept the Panthers unbeaten on the third game of their West Coast road trip.
”Our offense came from smart plays,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. ”And we weren’t high risk, we were just making the right play at the right time and I think when you do that, you’ll be on the right side of things.”
Jagr gave Florida a 2-1 lead with a moment of his ageless brilliance. He stole the puck from defenseman Josh Manson coming out from behind the Ducks’ net and calmly used a series of dekes to leave John Gibson seated on his backside before pocketing his 760th career goal.
”We fed their offense with our inability to execute with the puck,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. ”They turned the game in their favor with us gifting the puck to them.”
Rowe stressed a more controlled and focused approach to defense during the morning skate, and he used a timeout midway through third period to reinforce that lesson. Afterward, the Panthers were able to balance holding off the Ducks’ late charge and still getting into the offensive zone.
”I think prior to that we were sitting back a little too much, giving them too much respect,” Sceviour said. ”We knew they were going to push. I think we started playing a little more in their end in the second 10 and that made it better for us.”
Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal and Gibson stopped 27 shots for the Ducks, who had picked up a point in 12 of their previous 14 home games.
Anaheim’s stout penalty kill unit provided the first goal of the game early in the second. Cogliano was able to glove down Logan Shaw’s pass and scored on a breakaway, putting a shot between Reimer’s legs. Cogliano has now contributed three of the Ducks’ seven short-handed goals this season.
But the Panthers subsequently equalized on an innocuous wrist shot from Sceviour. There were three bodies in front of Gibson and he couldn’t see the shot until it was too late, as Sceviour picked up his seventh goal of the season.
”It’s a poised group on the bench,” Rowe said. ”They don’t usually get too panicked. And that’s where Jags comes in. The veteran guys, they keep the young kids calm.”
NOTES: Yandle appeared in his 607th consecutive game, second only to Cogliano’s mark of 763 straight games among active players. … Sami Vatanen returned to the Ducks’ lineup after missing five games with a lower-body injury. … Vincent Trocheck had an assist for Arizona, extending his streak of games with a point to four. … Playing their first game without center Antoine Vermette, who’s serving a 10-game suspension for slashing an official pending an appeal, the Ducks still dominated in the faceoff circle. Anaheim won 12 of 17 faceoffs in the first period and 71 percent for the game.