The Florida Panthers finally got some good news regarding injured players ahead of Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers. After spending the better part of two months losing player after playing, they finally got a few back in the lineup. Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson returned to combine on the Panthers first goal but that couldn’t keep them from falling to the Rangers 3-2 in overtime.
The last two times these teams met, the Rangers blindsided the Panthers, scoring early and often as they outscored them 10-2. In this game, it was the Cats who got on the board early thanks to Goc. Playing in his first game since November 15, Goc came back deep in his own zone to take a pass and create an odd-man rush with fellow returnee Samuelsson. Goc took Samuelsson’s pass on the break and fired a wrister past Rangers netminder Marty Biron to make it 1-0 at 4:16 in the first. A bit of bad luck saw the Rangers tie game at 17:44 of the period as Anton Stralman’s shot deflected off of Ed Jovanovski past Scott Clemmensen.
After a scoreless second period, the teams would trade goals in the third. New York took the lead briefly, once again on a redirected shot. With the Rangers on the power play (for the second Too Many Men On the Ice penalty of the night), Brad Richards fired a shot on net that pinballed off of Mike Weaver and Ryan Callahan before finding its way through Clemmensen’s legs for a 2-1 lead for the Blue Shirts (note to Mike Milbury, it’s Blue SHIRTS). The lead would last exactly 36 seconds as Mike Santorelli would score his first goal since 12/3 as he fired a shot from the right face-off dot that beat Biron over his right shoulder at 5:00 of the third.
Rebounding from getting pulled on Friday when these two teams met, Clemmensen made some big saves down the stretch and into overtime but he couldn’t stop them all. At 3:29 of the overtime period, Marian Gaborik took a drop pass from Derek Stepan and fired a low laser that beat Clemmensen to his right to give the Rangers 3-2 win.
Considering his performance on Friday, Clemmensen’s 38 save performance is a positive sign as the Panthers face life for the next few weeks without Jose Theodore. But more importantly, getting solid game from Goc and Samuelsson in their return is a better sign. If the Panthers are to stay atop the Southeast Division, getting healthy is priority number one. Getting the point on Thursday extends their lead back to four points over the Washington Capitals and five over the Winnipeg Jets. And while you want to win them all, a point on the road against the team with the best record in the NHL, you’ll bank the point and work for the two the next time out.
But if you’re a Panther fan, you have to hope that Santorelli scoring will jump start his game. His struggles have forced him to sit a game and spend time playing on a 4th line with AHLers but if he can somehow find a hot streak in him, it will make the Panthers daunting January schedule a bit more manageable.
The Panthers will next visit ex coach Pete DeBoer for the third time this season as they face the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
You can check out the Rangers point of view from our buddies at Blue Line Station right here.
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Topics: Anton Stralman, Blue Shirts, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Ed Jovanovski, Florida Panthers, Jose Theodore, Marcel Goc, Marian Gaborik, Marty Biron, Mikael Samuelsson, Mike Santorelli, Mike Weaver, New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan, Scott Clemmensen