The Florida Panthers returned home in style tonight defeating the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in a shootout. It was a back and forth game that saw the Panthers jump out to a 2-0 lead before falling behind 3-2 and later 4-3. Shawn Matthias was the star tonight recording his 11th and 12th goals of the season. You can read more about the game and check out highlights here. Below are some quick thoughts about the game:
- Matthias gets the gold star for the game tonight. His play has been stellar over the last few weeks, more than justifying the man-crush I confessed to having on Matthias during my season preview. Matthias’ development has been a huge plus for the Panthers this season.
- If Matthias gets the gold star, Huberdeau comes in a close second with his performance tonight. Huberdeau ended a nine game goal drought tonight and also added an assist and a goal in the shootout that just barely crossed the goal line. The two points give Huberdeau 23 for the season, just one behind Cory Conacher for the NHL rookie lead.
- Markstrom held his own in the shootout tonight going toe to toe with one of the league’s best in Ryan Miller. My worry with Markstrom is that because he is so big, he would struggle with his lateral movement in the shootout. My fears were justified whenJason Pominville scored on the Sabres’ first shootout attempt. Pominville saw a lot of open net as he got Markstrom moving from side to side but to Markstrom’s credit he looked good the rest of the way shutting the door on Buffalo’s next three shooters.
- I really thought tonight was going to be Florida’s first overtime victory of the year. There is nothing like seeing your team score during the sudden death period and the way things are going this year, we may not get to experience that special kind of joy. On a similar note, the Panthers have not had a shutout yet this season, although they’ve been shut out plenty of times. It would be strange and indicative of the Panthers’ season if they go the whole year without an overtime victory.
- While the season may be all but lost, Kevin Dineen still has his troops playing hard. The Panthers suit up next in a home game against the Devils on Saturday. I expect the BB&T Center to be rocking as this is surely a game that Panther fans want badly.