After Tuesday’s disappointing effort against the Washington Capitals that cost them sole possession of first place, the Florida Panthers needed a big effort, and more importantly, a big result out of Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. They got both in a 3-1 win that while not the most aesthetically pleasing affair that’s graced the ice at the Bank Atlantic Center, it was no less effective as the win put the Panthers back atop the Southeast Division standings.
Judging by the first period, it looked like the Cats were walking around with a Washington hangover as it took tham almost half a period to generate some pressure on Johnathan Quick’s cage. Overall, the Kings, hardly offensive juggernauts controlled the period by outshooting Florida 11-5. Thankfully, Scott Clemmensen, who had been scored on nine times (nine times?) in the previous two contests, came out much the way he did against Winnipeg last Friday and kept the puck out of his net.
Finally, in the second period, the Panthers scored for the first time in over 100 minutes of play when Sean Bergenheim buried a drop pass from Marcel Goc in the deep slot to go ahead 1-0. Ironically, it was Bergenheim who scored the last goal before the drought, also off of a pass from Goc. Late in the period, Mike Santorelli would give the Cats what would eventually be the game-winner from the right face-off dot off a Tomas Fleischmann feed to make it 2-0. The two Panthers goals came in a period which saw both teams combine for only nine shots on goal (nine times!) so, at the very least, they made the most out of limited opportunities, something that didn’t happen against the Caps (0 goals on 42 shots).
The Panthers nursed their 2-0 lead for much of the period but, in keeping with a motif for most home games this season, had to keep things interesting. Drew Doughty scored with 2:28 left in the game to make it nail-biting time once again. But instead of a blown lead, it was Matt Bradley’s empty netter that put the baby to bed for the Cats, evoking a rain of rats to the BAC ice. While this wasn’t the perfect game, it was a nice response against a tough Western Conference opponent that doesn’t give up a lot of goals.
Of note in this one: Erik Gudbranson logged 20:25 minutes of ice-time, third among Florida blueliners while leading all Panthers with six hits. It’s a further sign that the rookie defenseman is earning Kevin Dineen’s trust in a time where injuries have wreaked havoc on the back end.
Santorelli’s goal was his 7th of the year. And while his offensive numbers are disappointing in light of what he was able to produce last season, a hot close to the season would make that seem like a distant memory.
Have to give Bergenheim a ton of credit for the year he’s had despite being injured for 20 games. In early October, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones of NBC Sports Network chided his signing by the Panthers saying he probably wouldn’t score more all season than the 9 goals he scored last playoffs. And while we’re under no delusions that he’ll develop into a consistent goal scorer, his play recently has been invaluable as the Cats have won 3-of-5 since the All-Star break with him scoring in each of the wins. And he’s one of the few guys to give Florida a much-needed net presence. Can never have too many dirty goals.
Next up for Florida is a Saturday matinee in Newark against Pete DeBoer and his surging New Jersey Devils. The Devils have gone 6-2-2 over their last ten to go from outside the playoff picture to a solid fifth. It will be the fourth in final meeting between the teams with the Panthers going 1-1-1 over the first three.
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Topics: Drew Doughty, Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers, Jonathan Quick., Los Angeles Kings, Marcel Goc, Mike Milbury And Keith Jones Are Giant Douchebags, Mike Santorelli, New Jersey Devils, Scott Clemmensen, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Washington Capitals