Chris Higgins Celebrates One Of His Two Goals. Source: TSN.ca

Panthers Show Resiliency In Win Over Sabres

Today’s music video is Happy Christmas by the late John Lennon.  One of my favourite Christmas songs as we gear up for tomorrow!

Speaking of gearing up, which is exactly what the Florida Panthers did last night as they overcame a second period meltdown to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3, with defenceman Jason Garrison as they unlikely hero.  Honestly my title was all set to be something completely different had the Panthers hung on to their 3-0 lead after the first period with Chris Higgins scoring two goals and Stephen Weiss adding another.

The Panthers once again were all over Buffalo in the first period as they were six days ago at the Bank Atlantic Center where they chased Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after two goals.  Last night you had the feeling that the same may have been in store, but when the second period started, Miller was still in the net.  But Sabres coach Lindy Ruff must have taken a page out of Bruce Boudreau’s intermission speeches and gave the boys the “what for” as Buffalo played possessed in the second period with three unanswered goals to tie the game.

Ex-Panther Jordan Leopold started the comeback with 8th goal of the season on a shot that Tomas Vokoun most likely wishes he had back.  Jason Pomminville scored about three minutes later on a power play giving the Sabres and thier building life.  Panther fans all across America were wondering was another meltdown coming? In addition to that goal a very apathetic Stephen Weiss was caught defensively by Tyler Myers as Myers spun around Weiss at the center line.  Once Myers got past Weiss, Weiss decided to head off for a line change, effectively giving up on his defensive responsiblity, and leaving the Panthers short one player.  Even if it was for just a few seconds, it was a bonehead play.  After the Pomenville goal, Jordan Leopold scored his 9th goal of the year, putting him on pace for an ungodly 21, to tie the game at three.  There was a lot of hockey left, and if Florida didn’t figure out a way to stop the barrage, it was going to be a sad holiday.

The teams came out in the third period and exchanged chances, while at times the play seemed a bit dull, one concern was the legs of the Panthers.  Playing their second game in two nights, the boys started looking a bit rubbery.  But thanks to Tomas Vokoun and his 45 save performance, he held off Buffalo long enough to give the Panthers a chance and late in the third, with slightly over five minutes left to go, Jason Garrison became a hero.

With each team skating with four players each, Stephen Weiss looked to maybe have slashed Tyler Myers in the Panthers zone.  No call as Jason Garrison scooped up the loose puck and charged down the ice with winger David Booth on his left side.  The world, including Miller must have thought that Garrison would pass to Booth, but to the surprise of all, including Garrison himself, he wristed one past Miller giving the Panthers a 4-3 lead, and the ultimate winning goal.  Here’s the video courtesy of Litter Box Cats from NHL.com.

“I was looking to pass the whole way down,” Garrison said. “The D played it really well and I didn’t want to give up a shot there. It came down to the last second and I decided to put it on the net shortside.”

Joked Mike Weaver: “I was yelling at him to dump it in.”

Not to be forgotten in all this excitement were the two goals that were scored by Chris Higgins who had his best game offensively for the Panthers.  Higgins getting two goals in the first has been playing much better since coming back from his foot injury, and looks as though he could get himself on a hot streak.
Here’s the TSN boxscore.  I’m sure Tim at Sabre Noise has something to say.
Some interesting and nerdy stats that I picked up listening to Bill Lindsey and reading George Richards tweets.
* There have been 157 coaching changes in the NHL since Lindy Ruff started coaching the Sabres.
*Chris Higgins had three goals on 72 shots entering last nights game.  A four percent success rate.  He had two goals on three shots last night for a 66% success rate.
* Ryan Miller made his 12th consecutive start, but was denied his 200th career victory.  When that happens he’ll be the 67th goaltender to acheive that mark.
Most of the players went their separate ways for the Christmas holiday until they return Sunday.  Four out of a possible six points in this road trip is probably about two more than most people thought the Panthers would get.  A nice bunch of homes games coming up starting with Boston on Monday.  Which reminds me that you still have time to enter our contest for tickets to that Bruins game.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all of our readers.  Check back over the next few days.  We’ll still be here.

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres Chris Higgins Florida Panters Happy Christmas Jason Garrison Resiliency Tomas Vokoun

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