Kevin Dineen knew he had to do something different this time. With the Florida Panthers headed to the shootout for the second consecutive game, this time against the Calgary Flames, he knew that putting the FlashMob line as his three shooters didn’t make much sense considering they hadn’t tallied a single shootout goal in five games. So instead, he sent out two players from the best line in the game in Shawn Matthias and Sean Bergenheim, who already saved the Panthers with his two goals in regulation.
With both of them missing their opportunities, and Alex Tanguay converting his first opportunity, the Panthers were down to their last shooter, staring their sixth consecutive shootout loss in the eye. With that situation, Dineen sent out Dmitry Kulikov and his young defenseman rewarded his decision ripping his shot over the glove of Flames rookie netminder Leland Irving. Jose Theodore’s save in his end of the shootout gave the Cats a new life and Stephen Weiss would not let it go to waste. His backhand found its way through Irving’s five hole gave the Panthers their first lead in a shootout since October 15th and had some fans throwing rats on the ice prematurely, as Calgary had their end of the shootout. With Theodore saving Lee Stempniak’s attempt, the rats rained down for real as the Panthers had the 3-2 win in their back pocket.
Said Kulikov upon being asked if he was surprised he was selected for the shootout:
“Maybe a little bit, but I wanted it. You watch us losing in the shootout for a few games now. I mean I wanted it and it turned out good for me”
The knock on the Panthers from those outside of South Florida was that they were a one-line team. On this night, they were correct but it wasn’t the Flashmob line of Kris Versteeg-Weiss-Tomas Fleischmann, but instead it was Bergenheim-Matthias-Mikael Samuelsson that kept the Panthers afloat as they had tough sledding against the defensive-minded Flames.
It was Bergenheim who got the Panthers on the board in the first as he cleaned up a lose puck in front of the Flames net to make it 1-0. It was a reward for the Cats who started the game putting as many pucks as they could on Irving, who was playing in his first NHL game. However, the lead wouldn’t last as former Panther captain Olli Jokinen cleaned up a rebound for a goal of his own exactly midway through the first. The goal seemed to take a bit out of the Panthers as they spent the rest of the period defending unable to do much in the way of offense.
The Flames would add to their early in the third when Rene Bourque would stuff home a shot from close range past Theodore, taking advantage of a Versteeg penalty. With the top line having an off night, it was Bergenheim who was the hero in this game as he once again cleaned up the trash in front of the Calgary net to tie it up at 2 with under five minutes to play, giving the Panthers a chance for the shootout heroics.
Bergenheim’s goal help save the Panthers of what could have been a four-game losing streak, which could’ve had disastrous effects with the Cats facing four more games before the Christmas break. Instead, they can breath a sigh of relief ahead of Sunday’s divisional game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The also allows the Panthers to take back a seven point lead in the division over the Washington Capitals. Also impressive is the fact that this team seems to have a clutch element to them. Six times this season, the Panthers have scored a goal to tie or take the lead in the last five minutes of regulation. If ever there was a sign that things are different in Sunrise this season, it’s that stat.
You can check out some postgame interviews following the game on The Rat Trick You Tube page.
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Tags: Calgary Flames Carolina Hurricanes Dmitry Kulikov Flashmob Florida Panthers Jose Theodore Kevin Dineen Kris Versteeg Lee Stempniak Leland Irving Mikael Samuelsson Olli Jokinen Rene Bourque Sean Bergenheim Shawn Matthias Stephen Weiss Tomas Fleischmann Washington Capitals