Saturday night as the Florida Panthers took on the Montreal Canadiens, the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida looked and sounded more like the Bell Centre than a Panthers home game. However, that didn’t stop a surly group of Panthers from sending the Habs fans to the exits carrying a 3-2 defeat. The Panthers, obviously carrying over some anger from the end of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, brought a much more physical edge to their play to this game against the smaller Montreal forwards.
But it was the Canadiens fans in attendance that were made happy early. Travis Moen converted an odd man rush by blasting a shot from the left face-off circle at 5:37 in the first. The period would end 1-0 Montreal but it’s what happened at the end of the period that leaves this win a little less sweet for the Panthers. Following an end of period fracas between Erik Gudbranson and PK Subban, Krys Barch, who was on the bench at the time, was given a game misconduct for allegedly using a racial slur. At this time, there is still no confirmation of what exactly was said as Subban said he did not hear anything. After the game, coach Kevin Dineen said it’s an league matter at this point.
Florida would tie the game up in the second as Tomas Fleischmann ripped a shot from the right face-off circle past Carey Price. In the third, Shawn Matthias would give the Panthers the lead for good when his knuckling shot from the top of the left circle beat Price glove side at 3:08 of the period. With the net empty, Fleischmann apparently put the baby to bed with his goal 1t 19:19 of the period but Montreal wouldn’t go so quietly. On the ensuing face-off, Erik Cole walked a shot in on Scott Clemmensen (who replaced an injured Jose Theodore in the second period) and scored with :30 left. That led to a wild finish in the Panther end with Canadiens with five good cracks at Clemmensen who was up to the task, along with his defensemen. In the end, it was a rain of rats as the Cats close a remarkable 2011 with a win, and atop the Southeast Division with a four point cushion.
If you ask a Panthers fan, they’d probably tell you they’d probably want to win this game over just about any other because of the influx of Habs fans in their rink. And Kris Versteeg, who has endeared himself to the local fan base almost since day one, had this to say about winning for the home side:
“We hate having Montreal fans here. We hate hearing them we they score. We love hearing our fans cheer when we score. Nothing better than to shut them up with than winning.”
This win is the first for the Panthers in three tries against the Habs when they play on New Year’s Eve and the team showed a nice bit of pushback follwoing the 4-1 loss on Friday. And with Winnipeg and Washington both winning, getting the two points against a team that has been struggling is paramount. But it comes at a price as Theodore is expected to miss at least the next two game after falling awkwardly after being run into during the second period. That means Jacob Markstrom will be recalled from San Antonio to replace him for the time being.
But the Barch incident casts a dark shadow over this game. News outlets that normally don’t pay a lick of attention to hockey have already started reporting this. It’s still allegations at this point as no one has stated with any specificity what was said, if anything. My hope as a human being that this didn’t take place as there is no room for this in society, let alone a hockey game.
That said, Happy New Year to all and thank you for making it a great year for The Rat Trick! All the best to you, our readers, 2012.
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Tags: Bank Atlantic Center Bell Centre Erik Cole Erik Gudbranson Florida Panthers Jacob Markstrom Jose Theodore Kevin Dineen Krys Barch Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers PK Subban Scott Clemmensen Shawn Matthias Tomas Fleischmann Travis Moen Winnipeg