The Florida Panthers played their best game of their four game road trip however they were unable to solve Tuukka Rask who stopped 28, in the Bruins 3-0 win, on his way to his fourth shutout of the season. Rask seems to enjoy playing the Panthers as the win today gave him a 7-1 record against the Cats including three wins this season in which he has stopped 91 out of 93 shots. Of course this does not bode well for the Panthers who will see a lot more of Rask next year when the Panthers and Bruins become division rivals.
The Bruins got on the board early when Jaromir Jagr collected a loose puck and put it top shelf for his 16th goal of the season. Dougie Hamilton scored his fifth of the season in the second period and Brad Marchand put the game away with an empty-netter late in the third. The win gives Boston 59 points tying them with the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Northeast Division.
Jacob Markstrom had a much needed strong game for the Panthers stopping 36 of 38 shots the Bruins sent his way. Markstrom gave up the early goal to Jagr on the Bruins’ first shot of the game but was steady the rest of the way showing some resilience after allowing six goals in yesterday’s loss to the Devils.
Dmitry Kulikov left the game early in the third period after getting tangled with Jagr. Kulikov looked to have injured his hand or wrist and gingerly skated off the ice under his own power albeit with a grimace on his face.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with how the Panthers played today. It was refreshing to see the Panthers play a competitive game following a string of blowouts. It appears that some of the Panther youngsters are settling in at the NHL level. Quinton Howden has impressed in the last two games especially with his speed. It was his speed that led to his penalty shot chance yesterday against the Devils and his wheels were on display again today leading to a number of chances.
I have really liked what I have seen from Alex Petrovic‘s game in his short NHL stint. He has good size, is confident on the puck and relishes jumping up into the play on offense. He has made a couple of bad turnovers in the defensive zone, mostly as a result of being too casual with the puck, but as he gets used to the speed of the NHL game that should get ironed out.
While the results still aren’t there, today’s game was a step in the right direction. The number of young high draft picks on the Panther’s roster is impressive and over time that talent should translate into wins.
The Panthers take the ice next on Tuesday when the New York Rangers come to town. What did you think of the game? Are you happy with the progress of Florida’s young players? Does anyone in particular stand out?