The Florida Panthers have to be feeling pretty good about themselves after going into Philadelphia and beating the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout. Florida jumped out to an early lead in the first when Jack Skille, who was playing in place of Alex Kovalev, gathered a pass from Dmitry Kulikov and put the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers scored the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead, a lead they held until Stephen Weiss evened things up with a power play goal in the third period, his first goal of the season.
The Panthers were dominated in the overtime period and were outshot 5-0. Jose Theodore stood on his head and willed the Panthers into the shootout. Panther newcomers Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller converted their shootout attempts while Matt Read and Claude Giroux were stopped by Jose Theodore, sealing the two points for Florida. Speaking of Theodore, tonight’s game was by far his best performance of the season. Aside from the second goal where I thought he could have been more imperious in freezing the puck, Theo came through big time especially from the latter portion of the third period on. All told, Theodore stopped 30 of 32 shots while his counterpart Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 22 0f 24.
With the two points, and Washington and Tampa Bay losing, the Panthers move to a tie for second in the Southeast division with the Winnipeg Jets. Their nine points are one behind the Toronto Maple Leafs who currently occupy the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
This was a huge win for Florida especially because at times during the game, things did not look good for the Panthers. The Flyers seemed content to sit back in their zone and defend for most of the game making chances hard to come by for the Panthers. It took a beautiful pass from Dmitry Kulikov to set up the first goal. The play started with the patience of Mike Weaver who skated idly in his own zone staring down the Flyers defensive 1-2-1 alignment and waiting for something to develop. Weaver finally passed the puck to Kuliov to start the break who in turn found a streaking Jack Skille and hit him with a pass that cut right through four Flyers players leaving Skille with an open look in the high slot.
The Panther’s first goal was a rare time you see a team successfully pass through a 1-2-1 defensive scheme, and for the rest of the game the Panthers were force to dump pucks deep and chase. It took a bad tripping penalty by the Flyers’ Bruno Gervais to get the Panthers a chance in the third period. On the power play, Stephen Weiss took a pass from Tomas Fleischmann and crept up to the right face-off dot before firing a shot passed Bryzgalov. The goal was very reminiscent to the Flyers first goal where Jakub Voracek took a slap shot from a similar point on the ice while the Flyers were up a man.
Florida will look to finish off their road trip on a high note Saturday when they face the division rival Washington Capitals.
The Panthers have now extended their point streak to four games and have gotten five out of a possible six points so far on their four game road trip. Before the season started I emphasized that this road trip that the Panthers are currently in the middle of, would be the point in the season where we get a really good feel for what kind of team the Panthers will be. By taking five out of six possible points so far, the Panthers have succeeded expectations for what was expected to be a grueling series of games and dug themselves out of the hole they found themselves in after their early season five game losing streak.