It was an unfamiliar game time for the Florida Panthers but it began in an all-too familiar fashion. Former Panther Steve Bernier scored just 1:39 into the first period to give the New Jersey Devils the early lead. It was the 7th time in 17 starts that Florida netminder Scott Clemmensen had given up a goal inside the first 3:11 of the game (Thank you George Richards for tweeting that stat). Lately, giving up the early goal has been the death knell for the Panthers but, after a dreadful ten minutes to start the game, they slowly started to get in the game.
Capitalizing on a power play, Sean Bergenheim redirected an Erik Gudbranson point shot to even things up at 15:08 of the first. For Bergenheim, it continued this strong play of late as he has now tallied 9 points in his last 10 games played (including 4 goals in last five). And for Gudbranson, it was his fifth point of the season while logging his highest icetime of the season, 21:15. Much of that time came as a result of Jason Garrison leaving the game midway through the second period with a reported lower-body injury and not returning but, the rookie showed some poise beyond his years as the game wore on.
In the second period, it was the Flashmob line (you remember, that one and only line the Panthers have, according to Patrik Elias) that would conjure up a Cats lead. Devil slayer Kris Versteeg quickly wristed a deflected Stephen Weiss shot past Martin Brodeur to give the Cats a lead they would not relinquish at 2-1. Tomas Fleischmann started the play by creating a turnover at he blueline before passing to Weiss. The Devils will be happy they won’t have to see Versteeg the rest of the season as he’s torched them for five goals in four games on the season.
Both teams put the clamps down defensively in the third as they combined for a total of 13 shots. The Devils had a prime opportunity to tie things up late in the period as Bergenehim was sent off for a questionable trip with seven minutes to play, the only Panther penalty of the afternoon. However, it was the Panther penalty kill unit would stand strong as did the defense the rest of the way, not allowing a shot in the final five minutes of play. Mikael Samuelsson would end any potential drama with an empty net goal at 19:35 of the third. Credit to Clemmensen for hanging tough after a rough start to stymie his former team as he stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win. The Cats win the season series over Jersey and former coach Pete DeBoer 2-1-1.
The win gives the Cats a two-point lead in the Southeast Division over the Washington Capitals with both teams having played 54 games. Both teams will be in action on Sunday as the Cats will play look for some more afternoon delight on Long Island at 3pm against the New York Islanders while the Caps head to Midtown to face the New York Rangers for the NBC Game of the Week. The Panthers will have another defenseman in two as Colby Robak is being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage in case Garrison is unable to make the quick turnaround. Should Robak get the nod, it would be his NHL debut. This season for the Rampage, he’s tallied 7 goals and 18 assists in 48 games.
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Topics: Colby Robak, Erik Gudbranson, Flashmob Line, Florida Panthers, How You Like Them Lines Elias, Jason Garrison, Kris Versteeg, Mikael Samuelsson, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rnagers, Pete Deboer, San Antonio Rampage, Scott Clemmensen, Sean Bergenhiem, Southeast Division, Stephen Weiss, Steve Bernier, Tomas Fleischmann, Washington Capitals