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 fan base can agree that it is much more fun looking back on a season that ended with a playoff berth than the past 11 years without one.
Before the beginning of their annual Thanksgiving Feast Week, the Panthers went on a quick two-game Western Conference trip to Dallas and St Louis. First up were the surprising Dallas Stars who, despite ownership uncertainty and poor early season attendance, possessed the second best record in the conference thanks to the strong play of Keri Lehtonen in goal (whose play declined as the season wore on but was healthy and sharp on this date).
In the other net, Scott Clemmensen was seeing his first action after recovering from off season knee surgery. There was some sentiment among the fans that maybe the Cats would be better off with Jacob Markstrom, who played well in his five appearances subbing for Clemmensen, backing up starter Jose Theodore. All Clemmensen did was go out and pitch a 25 save shutout en route to a dominating 6-0 win over the Stars, quieting the call for the popular rookie Markstrom to stay in Sunrise.
Offensively, it didn’t get better for the Panthers in the regular season. Dmitry Kulikov finally scored his first goal of the season while Jason Garrison continued his surprising season as he rocketed home his seventh, giving Florida a 2-0 lead after one.
From there, it was the forwards turn to shine, specifically the Flashmob line. Tomas Fleischmann produced this magnificent piece of skill late in the second period, reminding why the Panthers were willing to sign him to a four year deal in the offseason.
Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg would add highlight reel goals of their own to turn this one in a rare easy night for the Panthers. A ricochet off of Evgenii Dadonov make it an even half-dozen making it one of the most complete efforts in the whole season.
While I was always optimistic that they Panthers could make the playoffs, it was this night that I really began to believe they would. This was a good Dallas team they simply just ran over and made me believe this team would simply just fade away after an early season run. Dale Tallon wanted to raise the skill level of this club prior to the season and this result had to make him and assistant GM Mike Santos flash a Texas-sized smile.
This was my reaction to the game the following morning.
If you have the time, enjoy every goal and some other highlights from this game.
The countdown so far:
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