Just like that, the Florida Panthers season quickly and unfortunately came to an end. With the Panthers and the Devils playing game 7 of the Eastern Quarterfinals in Sunrise on the Panthers home ice, the Panthers came into the game as favorites. But that didn’t matter. The Devils came out looking better and more committed than the Panthers. After obtaining a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd period, New Jersey was just minutes away from sending the Cats home packing. However the Panthers showed that same sense of urgency that they’ve showed throughout the year. The team came out of the locker room realizing that they might only be able to play NHL hockey for only 20 more minutes until next season. The Panthers came out firing at Martin Brodeur at all different angles as they continuously attempted to get back into the game. They were successful as both Stephen Weiss started the comeback with a goal just five minutes into the period, which was followed by Marcel Goc’s game tying goal with only four minutes left in regulation.
With the game tied as the two headed back to the locker rooms to prepare for overtime, there was a lot of energy radiating throughout the building. As the two sides came out to play the overtime and decide a winner, the fans and the players were ready to see the outcome of the game. The first overtime was even as both of the teams came out with the same motivation to score. An extra twenty minutes wasn’t enough for them as both teams failed to score a goal. As the next overtime was approaching, the fans were getting restless as it was early into the morning.
Both of the teams came out for the next overtime ready to put the game in the books. It didn’t take long as rookie Adam Henrique scored the game winning goal just three minutes and forty seven seconds into the second overtime. With the goal the New Jersey Devils advanced, while Panthers players, fans, and front office all felt the life quickly being sucked out of them. After having a 3-2 series lead, they only needed to win one more game to clinch the series and their spot in the semi-finals. Unfortunately they weren’t able to earn that last win.
Despite the loss, all the credit in the world is due to the Devils. For multiple games they had their backs against the wall. After pulling off an overtime victory at home, they had to travel all the way down to South Florida and earn a win in the Panthers home. With the tough crowd in front of them, the Devils came out with the right desire to win, and they were able to secure their spot in the next round. So with that being said congratulation to the New Jersey Devils.
Even though the Panthers season came to a sudden end two nights ago, fans shouldn’t be too upset. At the beginning of the season, the Panthers weren’t supposed to be in the position they were just a couple of nights ago. For a team that has 10 new players and a first year coach, they faired pretty well for themselves. Not only were they able to secure a spot in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, they also were able to win their division for the first time in franchise history. The Panthers can only get better. Next season they will have most of their current players returning and they will also get to see some more playing time from goalie Jacob Markstrom who currently plays for the Panthers AHL affiliate, Rochester Americans. Not only will the players be returning, but young players such as defenders Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson will be returning better than they were this year. With the progression of the young players and the return of our savvy veterans, the Cats are in a position to not only win the division again next year, but also make more noise in the playoffs.
It is no question that this past season has been one of the most exciting Panther seasons in their franchise history. It is hard to be angry or upset at the Panthers as they proved everyone wrong and got to a place where they weren’t even supposed to be. With the playoffs getting more and more exciting, the up and coming matchups will definitely be fun to watch. I would like to personally thank not only the Panthers players, but also all of the Panthers front office including general manager Dale Tallon and President Michael Yormark, and all of the fans for giving me the opportunity to witness something truly special this season and I cannot wait until not only next season, but also the future of this team.
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