NHL: Panthers Can't Hold Third-Period Lead in Loss to Knights

 LAS VEGAS (www.panthers.com)
-The Florida Panthers saw a third-period lead slip through their fingers in a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.

Sitting at 19-20-4, Florida finished its four-game road trip with a record of 2-2-0.

"It hurts right now," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "I think we played better than the result was. Of course, they have a good team and good players. If you give them chances, they're going to capitalize."

Making himself at home in his old barn, Nick Cousins, who suited up for Vegas in 2019-20, opened the scoring when he followed up on an attempt from Aaron Ekblad, crashed the net and sent the puck past Adin Hill to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead just 2:02 into the first period.

Given that the Knights' net had come off its moorings just as the goal was scored, officials reviewed the play but eventually upheld it after determining that it was the actions of Vegas defenseman Ben Hutton that caused the displacement prior to the puck crossing the line.

For context, here's a snippet from the NHL's official rulebook: "In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal."

"I thought the second half of the first period was much better for us," Cousins told Bally Sports Florida during the first intermission. "Bob made some really big saves to keep us in the game. They're at home. We're going to see their best. As the period went on, I thought we got better."

Getting the Knights on the board in the second period, Keegan Kolesar pounced on a turnover in the offensive zone before setting up Nicolas Roy for a goal from the slot to make it 1-1 at 4:08.

Staying red hot on the power play, the Panthers regained the lead when Sam Reinhart finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk by one-timing a laser of a shot from the slot straight past Hill, who had lost his paddle, to make it 2-1 at 12:47.

Facing off in a goalie battle, Hill made 38 saves while Bobrovsky made 29.

"He gave all the chances for us to win," Barkov said of Bobrovsky, who was particularly strong during a 14-save first period. "He's the backbone there. He always gives us a chance to win. That's all we can ask for. It gives us a lot of confidence to have a guy like him in the net."

Even though they've operated at well over 30% with the man advantage since Christmas, the Panthers couldn't pad their lead when they had 1:44 of a 5-on-3 power play in the third period. Looking back at the game as a whole, that proved to be an important turning point.

Not long after that bill kill for Vegas, Jack Eichel took a stretch pass from Kaedan Korczak and beat Bobrovsky on a breakaway to make it 2-2 at 8:37. Netting the go-ahead goal, Will Carrick then crashed into Bobrovsky and deflected in the puck to put the Knights on top 3-2.

Florida challenged citing goaltender interference, but the score was upheld.

With 1:07 left, William Karlsson put the game away with an empty netter to make it 4-2.

"After the first 10 minutes of that game we were real good right straight through," Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. "We had a 5-on-3, we don't score, and that'll be the turning point."

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