Remember this guy? Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Panther Countdown: Ten Wins That Shaped The Season. Game #10 10/8/11 at New York Islanders

Over the coming days, The Rat Trick will take a look back at the 10 regular season wins that played the biggest part in shaping the 2011-12 Florida Panthers season. There were many moments over 82 regular season games that stand out but, in our estimation, these wins played the biggest part in reviving a franchise that had been given up for dead by many. And if you agree or disagree with the choices, one thing the entire Panthers fanbase can agree that it is much more fun looking back on a season that ended with a playoff birth than the past 11 years without one.

It was the day Panthers fans had waiting for since July 1st: the official debut of the new-look Panthers. Gone from last season’s opener were names like Bryan Allen, Michael Frolik and Chris Higgins. In it’s place were the newly-acquired Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, among several other new faces, including coach Kevin Dineen. The question on the minds of all Panther fans was would the massive team reconstruction the team underwent in the off season work to make this a competitive team or would the critics have their last laugh would start to get answered on this night on Long Island.

The 2-0 win over the Islanders showed it would be the former. In many ways, the manner of victory was a sign of how things were going to go most of the season for the team. Any question anyone had of how Jose Theodore was going to play in a Florida sweater received a solid answer as he pitched his 31st career shutout in the face of low goal support (which would be a trend no matter who was between the pipes this season).

In a season that would see him become the franchise’s leader in games played, it seems only fitting that Stephen Weiss would open the team’s scoring ledger with this put-back goal late in the first period:


Jason Garrison would add the insurance goal with 15 seconds left in the first. No one knew it at the time, but, for Garrison, it would be the start of a record setting season that saw him pot 16 total on the year, a team, season-best. From there, Theodore and the defense took over, as all 27 Islanders shots were kept on the good sign of the red line despite 22 of those shots coming after the first intermission.

The win at the Nassau Coliseum started the season and Dineen’s coaching career with a 1-0 start but reality was waiting to hit just a few days later as the Pittsburgh Penguins would beat up on the Cats 4-2 in their only Versus/NBC Sports Network regular season appearance (which featured resident blowhard Mike Milbury taking every possible shot at the Panthers that he could cram into his segments). Thankfully, over the course of the final 80 games, there were far more nights like game one than there were of game two, proving doubters like Milbury wrong in the process.

This was my recap of that first game the following morning.

What say you Panthers fans? Where would you rank this win?

Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

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Tags: Brian Campbell Bryan Allen Chris Higgins Dale Tallon Florida Panthers Jason Garrison Jose Theodore Kris Versteeg Michael Frolik New York Islanders Tomas Fleischmann

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