If you were stuck in traffic on your way to the Bank Atlantic Center Friday to see the Florida Panthers take on the New York Rangers, you missed all you needed to see in the first 5:10 of the game. That’s how long it took the Rangers to build an insurmountable 2-0 lead, all on Scott Clemmensen’s cage. The Rangers would add one more in the first to chase Clemmensen in favor of Saturday’s anticipated starter, Jose Theodore.
Carl Hagelin got things started for the Rangers :35 in as he deflected a Brad Richards collected a puck at center ice and raced in on net and fired a wrister high over Clemmensen’s right shoulder. Clemmensen’s night would come to a quick end when Michael Del Zotto’s wrister from the top of the right face-off circle beat him to make it 3-0.
Brandon Dubinsky’s goal at 7:41 in the second would make the New York lead 4-0. Matt Bradley would make sure the Panthers would avoid the shutout with his goal at 9:28 in the frame but that would be it. The Panthers would play with some jump to and attacked well throughout the final two periods, but some of that has to do with the Rangers backing off a bit and trusting Henrik Lundqvist to stop just about anything thrown his way.
But the game wouldn’t end quietly. With 7.6 seconds left in the game, Tomas Kopecky responded to Del Zotto attempting to remove some teeth from his head with a punch to the jaw. You can see all of the chaos that erupted here thanks to Pro Hockey Talk. While Del Zotto (these two teams square off one last time on Thursday) deserved retaliation for swiping at a guy’s head a few times, Kopecky’s reaction might cost him a one game suspension considering the time that it happened. That could prove to be huge as it would once again put the Panthers down seven forwards. As the Cats fight to maintain first place in the Southeast Division while they await some of their guys to return from injury, EVERY game is huge, and putting themselves at that short-handed disadvantage certainly doesn’t help. Especially when you’re talking about a guy who has been a top 6 forward all season in Kopecky. Pressure to win Saturday’s game against Montreal becomes even greater as a result.
That said, I can’t wait to see how this team responds to Del Zotto and Mike Rupp on Thursday!
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Topics: Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin, Florida Panthers, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley, Michael Del Zotto, Michael Del Zotto And Mike Rupp Are Douchebags, Mike Rupp, New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan, Scott Clemmensen, Tomas Kopecky