There was a certain theme in every goal the Florida Panthers scored their 6-2 thrashing of the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins: Good things happen when you’re willing to go to the net. All six goals were produced by someone either driving to the net or, because of someone camping out in front of Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. In all, six different Panthers buried lamp-lighters and eleven notched at least a point as the team compiled at least five goals for the second straight game and extended their lead in the Southeast division to three points.
It was a largely uneventful first period, save for a tremendous Brian Campbell hip check of Bruins pest Brad Marchand that launched him to Quincy Market, until the Cats were took advantage of a late-period power play. With Sean Bergenheim camped in front of Thomas, Mikael Samuelsson fired a wrister from the top of the right face off circle to Thomas’ right that he didn’t see coming until it was already past him and in the net for the 1-0 lead. The goal marked the fourth straight game the Panthers were able to score first, and they’ve compiled a 3-0-1 record in those games.
It didn’t take the Panthers too long to double that lead in the second period. Marcel Goc deflected a Campbell floater past Thomas to make it 2-0 just :38 in to the frame. For Goc, it was his third straight game with a goal. But Boston was able to answer back and cut the lead to one just four minutes later. Joe Corvo’s point shot somehow found its way through traffic and past Jose Theodore to get the Bruins on the board. Less than two minutes later, the Panthers had an answer of their own. Stephen Weiss cleaned up a rebound of a Tomas Fleischmann shot and buried it into an open cage for a 3-1 lead. It would be Florida’s grinders that would give the Panthers a 4-1 advantage as the period drew to a close. Jerred Smithson found John Madden camped in front of Thomas’ net and he quickly flicked the pass past him for his first goal as a Panther. Madden threw in overhand right at the glass in relief that should’ve made line mate Krys Barch proud.
Brian Rolston got Boston as close as they would get again as his power play one timer (which may have been deflected en route) squeaked past Theodore cut it to a 4-2 Panther lead. But, once again, the Panthers were able to push right back as a hard forechecking Tomas Kopecky caught a break as a deflected pass ended up on his stick on Thomas’ doorstep and he beat him short side for a 5-2 lead. With 2:36 remainding, Wojtek Wolski rubbed salt in the Bruin would as he finished a 2-on-1 breakaway with Fleischmann by skating past Thomas before calmly firing it into an open cage for the 6-2 final.
So many great things from this game if you’re a Panther fan: Third straight win, another explosion of goals, beating the defending Cup champs, ruining the night for visiting fans. But, the most promising thing is that this team is starting to look like the Panthers from November. The passing, the creativity (see Smithson’s pass to Madden on his goal), the effort and the hustle. They’ve responded tremendously after last Thursday’s thrashing in Philadelphia with 7 out of 8 points in the past four games at a time when those who would covet their spot in the playoffs have also gone on a winning streak. A lot of that has to do with the veteran dressing room Dale Tallon put together this past off season. Guys like Campbell, Kopecky, Samuelsson and Jovanovski have spent of their careers in this same situation: being on a team that’s trying to hold onto a playoff spot and finish the regular season strongly. Right now, it looks like a masterstroke and no matter what seems to happen, this team has a positive response to it. Just look at this home stand. After a disastrous four game home stand a few weeks ago, this team has responded by winning the first three games in regulation with a strong chance to sweep all eight points on Saturday against Buffalo.
And the best news? This team is about to get healthier as Kris Versteeg, Dmitry Kulikov and Scottie Upshall are all set to return from injuries. Don’t look now but, that same Panthers team everyone was expected to fade down the stretch is about to get stronger.
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Topics: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Brian Campbell, Brian Rolston, Ed Jovanovski, Florida Panthers, Jerred Smithson, Joe Corvo, John Madden, Jose Theodore, Krys Barch, Marcel Goc, Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, Stephen Weiss, Tim Thomas, Tomas Fleischmann, Wojtek Wolski