Sometimes, you just run into a goaltender who just isn’t going to be beat. No matter what you throw at him, from whatever angle, no matter how much traffic you get in front of the net, it just isn’t going in because of the man between the pipes. That was the case for the Florida Panthers as they fell 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings on the road behind the strong play of Jonathan Quick between the pipes Thursday night. The young American netminder stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced, including 29 over the final two periods. How good was he? He even added a secondary assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
It didn’t help the Panthers offense when leading scorer Kris Versteeg was scratched from this game with an upper-body injury (getting elbowed in the face will do that to you). 30 year-old rookie Bracken Kearns was recalled from San Antonio of the AHL midday to fill Versteeg’s spot in the lineup. No word on how long Versteeg will be out of the lineup (Assistant GM Mike Santos indicated during the second intermission that it won’t be long) but, the Panthers obviously need him back ASAP as the first line has been the only consistent scoring threat.
Things didn’t get off to a great start for the Cats as they found themselves down just 1:35 into the game. A Jack Johnson shot from the top of the left face-off circle caromed off of Tomas Kopecky and Mike Weaver gave Jose Theodore no chance to make a save and but the Kings up 1-0. The Panthers had a couple of great chances to level the game, but couldn’t take advantage of two late-period power plays, which would be a common theme in this game.
In the second period, the Cats once again had numerous opportunities with the man advantage, including a 5-on-3 for :35 early on in the frame, but couldn’t get it past Quick. The Kings doubled their lead when they took advantage of a rare power play opportunity for them when Slava Voynov’s long outlet pass found the stick of captain Dustin Brown, who roofed a shot over Theodore’s right shoulder. Just under two minutes later, the Panthers persistence finally paid off on the scoreboard. A low shot from the right point by Erik Gudbranson was saved by Quick, whose rebound was collected by Sean Bergenheim and pushed into an open net to make it 2-1. The goal helped Gudbranson record his first NHL point.
Bergenheim made an even bigger impact in the game about a minute later when he checked (Florida Panther fan favorite for this) Mike Richards. Richards took exception to the hit and followed Bergenheim around the ice, hacking and slashing until play was whistled dead. Replay shows that as Bergenheim followed through on his check, his shoulder made contact with the chin of Richards. Richards received two minor penalties for his reaction, which along with minors to Bergenheim and Jarret Stoll, left the Panthers with a 4 minute power play that they could not convert.
No scoring in the third period, but plenty of chances for the Panthers to even it up but Quick did his best impression of a stone wall to preserve the win. It’s hard to draw any encouragement from a regulation loss, and I’m not one for moral victories, but you have to be at least somewhat pleased with how well this team played Thursday against a team like Los Angeles. They out-everything’d the Kings (except out-score) the Kings in his game. The effort is even more impressive considering how the injury bug has bitten them hard. The entire 4th line was comprised of guys who started the season in the American Hockey League, but they were worked hard enough to get some good ice time in the third period. And it was impressive to see Dmitry Kulikov, who had a deep laceration stitched up after Tuesday’s game in Carolina, gut out over 20 minutes of ice time. But, in the end, it’s no points in the standings. Fortunately, the Washington Capitals lost on their home ice, which means the Panthers maintain their five point lead in the Southeast Division. The Cats conclude the road trip Saturday night in San Jose.
Check out Fansided’s Kings Blog, Rink Royalty, for their take on Thursday’s game.
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Topics: Columbus Blue Jackets, Dustin Brown, Erik Gudbranson, Florida Pantthers, Jack Johnson, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick., Jose Theodore, Kirs Versteeg, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Mike Richards Is A Douchebag, Sean Bergenheim, Slava Voynov, Tomas Kopecky