PREVEW: Panthers bid to hand Hurricanes first home loss of season

Feb 15, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Anthony Duclair (91) shoots as Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney (35) makes a save during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers, who just won two of three games from the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, are set for another major challenge on Wednesday night.

Florida will visit the Carolina Hurricanes, who are 4-0-0 at home this season. The Panthers, meanwhile, are 4-0-1 on the road.

Yet, in the two recent wins over Tampa Bay, Florida scored a combined 11 goals against a Lightning defense that was ranked No. 1 in the NHL.

“We’ve had a lot of people doubting us early in the year,” Panthers forward Anthony Duclair said. “I think we proved a lot of people wrong these past three games. We want to make sure we’re playing our best against these (top) teams.”

The Panthers showed a lot of speed in Monday’s 6-4 win over the Lightning. At one point in the second period, the Panthers scored four goals on four shots over a span of 7:37.

“We’re at our best,” Duclair said, “when we’re breaking the puck out really quick.”

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In terms of Panthers’ streaks and milestones, Frank Vatrano has a goal in each of his past three games, and captain Aleksander Barkov on Monday moved into second place in franchise history with 421 points. Teammate Jonathan Huberdeau (454 points) is atop the list.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes can score, too. They have accounted for 16 goals during their three-game winning streak, including Monday’s 7-3 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Hurricanes have not lost consecutive games all season, and they have been held to fewer than two goals just once — in a 1-0 overtime victory over Tampa Bay on Jan. 28.

Carolina scored six straight goals in Monday’s victory, including one by Teuvo Teravainen, who is just starting to recover his prior performance level after missing three games in the COVID protocol.

“I just haven’t felt normal,” he said. “I get tired in the legs. My timing, too (has been off). But it’s starting to feel a little better.”

One of the hottest Hurricanes is captain Jordan Staal, who has five goals and three assists in his past five games.

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In addition, forward Cedric Paquette made his Hurricanes debut after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Paquette led Carolina in hits with five while playing only 11:33 on Monday.

“(Paquette is) a player you want on your team,” said Carolina winger Brock McGinn, who had two goals and two assists on Monday. “He’s a guy you don’t want to play against.”

McGinn is first on the Hurricanes in goals with seven, Staal leads in points (14), and Sebastian Aho tops the team in assists (nine).

Former Panthers goalie James Reimer, who earned the win on Monday, is Carolina’s likely starter on Wednesday. He is 7-1-0 with a 3.10 goals-against average.

The Panthers are likely to go back to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who rested on Monday. He has started three of Florida’s past four games and is 5-1-1 with a 3.33 GAA.

Huberdeau leads the Panthers in assists (12) and points (17). Carter Verhaeghe leads the team in goals (seven).

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–Field Level Media