The Florida Panthers bucked some troublesome trends en route to a rousing 6-4 victory over the tough-to-beat Pittsburgh Penguins. Before tonight, the Panthers were 2-8 in their last ten games against the Penguins. Florida had also struggled on the power play scoring only once in their last 24 opportunities and going 0-17 at home. The Panthers’ power play broke out in a big way tonight converting four opportunities into goals. The win was also the teams first home win since Jan 31st breaking a five game home losing streak.
This was a good game if you liked offense and special teams. Not a good game if you are a fan of goaltending or penalty free hockey. Both teams had to turn to their backup goaltenders as Tomas Vokoun was pulled midway through the second after allowing four goals on 22 shots. Jose Theodore got the hook for the Panthers after allowing his fourth goal while only facing 19 shots. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 12 of 13 in relief for the Penguins while Scott Clemmensen stopped all fifteen shots he face filling in for Theodore. The Panthers outshot the Penguins 36-34 much better than in the teams’ meeting in Pittsburgh on friday where the Panthers were out shot 40-23.
Tomas Kopecky led the way for the Panthers registering his first career hat trick. Kopecky now has eight goals on the season, only two off his total for last season in 80 games. Kopecky’s first goals were very Koepckian, i.e. they came from grinding away in front of the net, while his third came with the Penguins goalie pulled and served to ice the game for the Panthers.
Kopecky’s presence in front of the net seemed get to ex-Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun who took a cheap shot at Kopecky after he had scored his second goal of the game. After Kopecky put away the goal, he was cross checked from behind by Craig Adams. While on the ground Vokoun took a shot at Kopecky. Kopecky in turn jumped up and began swinging at Vokoun which set off an all around melee with everyone getting involved. Kopecky got four minutes of penalties from the scrum while Vokoun received two minutes for roughing. Overall there were 32 PIM combined between the two teams.
Tomas Fleischmann (man it was a busy night for guys named Tomas huh?) scored the eventual game winner with a nasty wrist shot from the face off dot that he slotted past Fleury. The goal was Flash’s fifth of the season and 100th of his career. Marcel Goc and Brian Campbell scored the other two goals for the Panthers. Campbell, Kulikov and Fleischmann all recorded two assists while Shore, Kopecky Smithson Goc and Gudbranson each logged one assist.
The win brought the Panther’s record to 6-9-4 with 16 points. They are currently three points off the Southeast division lead as well as three points from the 8th and final playoff spot. Florida plays home against the Sabres Thursday then plays a road/home back to back against the Hurricanes Saturday and Sunday.