Despite losing Tim Thomas to an apparent lower body injury with 2:59 remaining in the third period, the Florida Panthers were able to pick up a crucial point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Thomas’ injury looked very similar to the groin injury he sustained against the Flyers two weeks ago. In both instances he came up lame after making a sliding save. Jacob Markstrom replaced Thomas and stopped both shots he faced guiding the Panther through the end of the game and overtime.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes failed to find the back of the net on their shootout attempts while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp converted for the Blackhawks. The Panthers pick up a point and the shootout loss brings their record to 3-6-1. The win brings the Blackhawks record to 6-1-2.
The Blackhawks got second period goals from Toews and Bryan Bickell to take a 2-0 lead. The Panthers did not quit and they received third period goals from Tomas Fleischmann and Dmitry Kulikov to even the score.
Here are some rapid reactions from tonight’s game:
- I know it seems like we always talk about the young Panther players but tonight seemed like a coming out party for the likes of Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson. Yes, Huberdeau did miss a penalty shot in the second period and he failed to score in the shootout but his play during the game was excellent. You can see him starting to emerge as the team’s go-to guy. His 17:54 TOI was second amongst Panther forwards trailing only Kris Versteeg who was at 18:13.
- I am just going to say it, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are like the second coming of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. I know that may seem crazy but think about it, Huberdeau is the supremely skilled winger a la Kane, the flash guy, the guy that will dazzle with his stick handling ability, the guy famous for his nasty shoot out moves. Barkov is the big talented center a la Toews, as renowned for his hard-nose defense as he is for his offensive prowess. Is it a coincidence that Dale Tallon was the GM who drafted all four of those players? We always hear about Tallon’s blueprint for building a championship and it makes sense that in his second go-around, he would gravitate towards drafting players cut from the same cloth as Kane and Toews. Huberdeau and Barkov have a long way to go until they get to that level and they may never reach the excellence of Kane/Toews, but there is no denying that they have the potential.
- The Toews-Barkov parallels came to the forefront when the two met in the Panthers’ defensive zone face-off dot for the final draw of regulation. Toews, one of the leagues best on the draw against the rookie Barkov, with the game on the line. It was a big moment and Barkov came out on top winning possession and allowing the Panthers to control the puck to assure a hard earned point.
- Face-offs played an integral role again in overtime when Toews again found himself with a draw in the Panthers’ defensive zone with time about to expire. This time his opponent was Nick Bjugstad. Toews who finished the game 15-21 (71%) on face-offs again lost and the Panthers were again able to avoid any further Chicago pressure and get the game to the shootout.
- Bjugstad played center on a line with Huberdeau most of the night and the 6’6″ Minnesota native played strong the entire game. The Blackhawks didn’t win their cups with Toews and Kane alone. The Blackhawks success has grown from a combination of those two stars and a talented cast of role players. If the Panthers want to build a Blackhawks like dynasty they will need players like Bjugstad to step up and fill one of those second-teir scoring roles.
- Picking up a point tonight is huge for the Panthers. That cannot be overstated. It is weird to say that because usually falling in extra time at home is a negative but when your a struggling Panthers club going against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, picking up one point is a pretty huge accomplishment.
- In the second and third periods, the Panthers took the game to the Blackhawks. You could see the Panthers’ confidence growing as the game went on. This game could be a jumping off point for the Panthers. I am looking for them to carry the momentum gained tonight into Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. The worst thing Florida could do is come out Friday against the Buffalo Sabres and lay an egg. If they do that, all the positives from tonight’s game go out the window.
- Markstrom got beat on two out of three shootout attempts but we have to give the 23-year-old some credit. Its not easy to come in cold late in a game and then have to participate in a shootout. Its exponentially harder when the shootout trio consists of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
- How about those shootout lineups by the way: Huberdeau, Brad Boyes, and Barkov vs Toews, Kane and Sharp. It does not get much better than that.
- When the lines came out today, I found it interesting that Bjugstad was flanked by Huberdeau and Winchester while Gomez was flanked by Upshall and Boyes. Midway through the second period head coach Kevin Dineen moved Boyes up to the Bjugstad line and Winchester down to the Gomez line.
- There could be a number of reasons this happened but my guess is that Dineen was trying to motivate Boyes by giving his top-six spot in the lineup to Winchester. I have played enough hockey to know when a coach is trying to motivate one of his scorers by cutting his playing time, heck I used to be the guy bumped up from the bottom six. Its always the same story for me and the Jesse Winchesters of the world, you play with the top-six for half the game until the coach thinks that he got his message across to his scorer and somewhere in the second period your back to your grinding role at the bottom of the lineup thankful for the extra minutes (unless of course you utilize that extra ice-time and contribute offensively, then you might see a little more of those precious top-six minutes). Again I have no idea what the reasoning for the Boyes/Winchester switch was but it certainly looked like it was a motivational tactic by Dineen to get Boyes going offensively.
- This was by far the Panthers best game of the season. If they play the rest of the season like they did tonight, you can bet that they will win some games.
- The Panthers have shown an early season penchant for coming back late in games, of course that is kind of a result of their penchant for falling behind early in games but hey, we take what we can get. Last Tuesday, Florida got the score within one after falling behind 4-2 in the third period of an eventual 4-3 loss to the Predators. On Thursday against the Bruins, the Panthers came from behind and tied the game up at two in the third before giving up the game winner with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Same story Saturday against the Wild, the Panthers came from behind in the third except this time they got the game to overtime and eventually won in the shootout. It would be nice to see the Panthers maybe not be behind every game but at least they are not quitting out there (7-0 and 7-2 losses notwithstanding).
- Lastly, it looks like the Panthers are going to be tough to beat at home this year. They already took down the Penguins and Wild and came one lucky bounce from taking the Bruins to OT. Now tonight they came back from down two against the Blackhawks and earned a much needed point.
- The Kulikov penalty that led to the first Blackhawks goal was bad, there is no way to sugarcoat it. Luckily he made up for the penalty by scoring the game tying goal.
- We’ll have more to say about the game tomorrow, but for now share your thoughts in the comments section below, and follow The Rat Trick on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest.