Injuries? What injuries? With all the talk surrounding the team focused on those who would be absent, it was the players on the ice who stole the spotlight and put on one hell of a show against the Winnipeg Jets en route to a 4-1 victory. All the injury talk must have offended the healthy Panthers who put on a deafening “We’re Still Here!” performance, dominating the Jets in every aspect of the game.
Jacob Markstrom got his first win of the season in his first start since Jose Theodore went down with a torn groin. Markstrom stopped 20 of 21 shots faced and put in a solid performance in the first game of a stretch that should see the big net minder get a lot of playing time. The Panthers stifled the Jets most of the game but Markstrom came up big whenever he was called upon.
The Panthers put in a full team effort receiving goals from all four lines. Kopecky got things started in the first with his 9th of the year finishing off a pretty series of passes by Tomas Fleischmann and Marcel Goc. On most nights Kopecky’s goal would be the prettiest goal of the game, but this was not most nights. After Kyle Wellwood tied the game at one in the second period, Shawn Matthias scored one of the nastiest goals the Panthers have seen so far this season. Matthias as he is wont to do, rushed up the ice with speed. After crossing the Jets blue line, Matthias completely undressed Jets’ defender Mark Stuart feigning a move inside before poking the puck outside and past Stuart. Stuart bit on the fake and Matthias cashed in on his open look ripping the puck past Ondrej Pavelec high glove side for his fifth goal of the season.
The goal put the Panthers up 2-1 but they were not done yet. Jonathan Huberdeau threw his hat into the “goal of the game ring” when he was granted a penalty shot 14:50 into the second period. Pavelec must have been watching too much video of Huberdeau dekes because instead putting any moves on Pavelec, Huberdeau cooly skated towards the net and then in an instant released a nasty wrister beating Pavelec high glove side to put the Panthers up 3-1. The goal was Huberdeau’s 11th and second on a penalty shot this season.
If that wasn’t enough Mike Santorelli made a fantastic move scoring the Panther’s fourth goal of the game. In the third period Brian Campbell found an open Santorelli in front of the net but rather than shooting, Santo deked out Pavelec and tucked the puck into the back of the net from behind the goal line. The goal was Santorelli’s first of the season and first in over a year.
Overall the Panthers put on quite the display of skill. The team seemed rejuvenated by Markstrom’s presence in net and put forth a full 60 minutes of hard work. The win gives the Panthers a 7-11-5 record and 19 points. Florida will play another big in-division game Thursday when they travel to Washington to face the Capitals. The Panther and Jets will meet again in South Florida on Friday.
- Markstrom looked really sharp in net tonight. Watching him play, two things stand out: his size and his quickness. At 6’6″ Markstrom is an imposing physical specimen in the net which makes his quickness all the more impressive. Maybe I have been watching too much of the ancient relics that are Theodore and Clemmensen, but watching Markstrom get down and out of his butterfly in a split second is something to behold. There was an excitement pulsing through the BB&T Center tonight and it was because of Jacob Markstrom.
- Kopecky has developed a celebration where he faces the fans and pounds on the glassin exuberance with both fists. It is fun to watch fans react to the celebration, tonight one fan returned the gesture, leaning in to touch her side of the glass while a young child had a look of terror wash over his face.
- Colby Robak got his first NHL point, assisting on the Matthias goal. His fellow Rampage teammate Jonathan Rheault played well on his line with Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille. Rheault is a diminutive 5’10” and looked to have gotten pushed around a bit tonight but it is clear that he has the skills and work ethic to succeed in the NHL.
- Florida did not take a penalty all game which kept their 29th ranked penalty kill off the ice. The Jets had only three penalties but their 30th ranked penalty kill held strong. Overall it was a very fast paced game with the refs pocketing their whistles and letting the players play.
- Shawn Matthias was the top star of the game and the honor was well deserved. The entire game it looked like Matthias was playing in a different gear. We already know that Matthias can use his big body, speed and effort to wreck havoc but tonight he displayed his skill as well.