It’s sometimes amazing what a difference 24 hours can make and how it can change perspective. Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Florida Panthers were zamboni’d by the Flyers 5-0, leaving a feeling that good things did not await them Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. And for good reason. The Penguins came into the game the hottest team in the NHL, winning eight of their last ten behind the Hart Trophy-like play of star Evgeni Malkin.
But somewhere in those 24 hours in between, the Panthers found the fight for the Penguins that they didn’t have against Philly. The end result was a hard-earned point in a 2-1 shootout loss. It’s still not a great thing to be content with ‘just a point’ but considering it came on the road against a high quality team on the second half of a back to back, the Panthers will take it.
With the Panther offense struggling to score goals, especially without the services of leading scorer Kris Versteeg, a tight defensive effort was needed and that’s exactly what they got as they did everything they could to clog open ice for the highly skilled Penguins. That combined with a strong effort from goaltender Jose Theodore was enough to keep the Panthers in the game.
After a scoreless first, it was the Panthers who would get on the board first in the second. Tomas Fleischmann collected his 21st as he gathered a rebound of a Wojtek Wolski shot that bounced off the end boards and buried it into an open net. It was a well-deserved goal for Fleischmann as he’s spent the better part of the past two weeks being frustrated by post after post. And it was certainly nice to see the Panthers get the first goal after what seems like weeks of playing catch-up in every game.
However, it didn’t take too long in the third for the Pens to tie it up. Jordan Staal threaded a beautiful pass to Steve Sullivan, who raced past Erik Gudbranson in alone on Theodore. Theodore was able to get in front of Sullivan’s backhand but the shot trickled through his legs and into the net.
After killing off a four-minute double minor to Krys Barch, it looked like the fates would be against the Panthers. At 8:53 of the third, Pascal Dupuis looked to have scored the go-ahead goal. Replays never showed the puck totally cross the red line while in sight and the Toronto War Room agreed and overturned the referee’s call on the ice of a goal. It was a rare break for Florida from replay officials as the the replays shown on television could’ve easily been called inconclusive and defaulted to the ref’s call.
That was as close as either team would get to scoring again and game ended up in a shootout. And as usually happens, the Panthers two chances were stopped while the Pens easily converted theirs.
Just getting a point is made a little bit more palatable with the fact that the Winnipeg Jets have dropped two in a row on the road, including a loss Friday night to the Calgary Flames. Now, the Cats return to Sunrise for another four-game home stand with a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Jets and Washington Capitals. Hopefully, this one goes better than last time, where the Panthers managed only one point out of a possible eight. Everything gets underway on Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes, whom the Cats have won all three meetings this season.
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