The Day After: Panthers Don’t Need A Bigger Boat, Down Sharks 5-3


The Florida Panthers certainly know how to make it worth your while to stay up late for a 10:30 start. For the second straight game, the Cats put forth a monster effort in California. This time, the fans and the Panthers, were rewarded for their effort with a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. For the Panthers, the win gives them a league-leading (along with the Philadelphia Flyers) nine wins away from their home rink.

Like Thursday’s loss in Loss Angeles, things didn’t start so well for the Panthers. Just 1:16 into the game, Logan Couture wheeled and fired a shot from the top of the right face-off circle that found its way through traffic and past Scott Clemmensen for a 1-0 lead. About seven minutes later,
the Panthers evened things up, and wouldn’t you know it was the reunited (Kris Versteeg missed Thursday’s game in LA) to get the Cats on the board. Stephen Weiss collected a rebound of a Tomas Fleischmann shot and put a shot on net that resembled an elderly driver on I-95 that found its way through the Sharks defense and past Thomas Griess to level it at 1-1. It took the Sharks only four minutes to reclaim the lead (their last one of the contenst) as Jamife McGinn crashed the net and buried a Michal Handzus feed from behind the net past Clemmensen for the 2-1 lead.

The Fox Sports-Florida telecast put forth an ominous stat early in the second period that showed the Sharks as having the best goal differential in the second stanza. About a minute later after that stat was shown, Marco Sturm scored the first of three second period goals. Sharks defenseman Colin White backhanded a weak clearing attempt that hit Sturm in his midsection. The former Shark collected the puck and skated in on the San Jose net and calmly buried a backhander through Griess‘ five hole to tie the game at 2. Less than two minutes later, it was Fleischmann who gave the Cats a lead they would not relinquish. A Weiss-created turnover found its way to Versteeg’s stick who flicked the puck to Flash, who out-waited Greiss before slotting it into the open net.

The Sharks had a golden opportunity as their top-5 ranked power play had an opportunity following a Sean Bergenheim slash. Instead, it was the hard-working Panthers who would score their third short-handed goal on the season. Jack Skille stole a Dan Boyle pass at the San Jose blueline, put his head down and drove to the net. To be honest, I’ve watched goal about ten times now and I’m still not sure what happened, but somehow the puck ended up in Sharks net to give Skille a much deserved goal.

You knew the ultra-talented Sharks weren’t going to go away quietly and their power play struck with 6:21 left to play. And it was Couture again as he one-timed a Martin Havlat pass from the slot past Clemmensen to narrow the Cat lead to 4-3. But this version of the Panthers showed, once again, how different they are than previous Florida teams. With the Panthers still attacking, Versteeg drew a penalty at 16:50, that they cashed in for their third special teams goal of the night. Dmitry Kulikov collected a Weiss pass at the right face-off circle and wristed a shot that deflected off Griess and bounced in the net to put the baby to bed for the Cats. The Panthers ended the game looking like the Brazilian soccer team as they controlled the puck and forcing Griess to stay in his net.

The Panthers finish the road tip with a 2-2 record and the past three games (2-1) make last Saturday’s disaster in Tampa seem like a distant memory. The two points from this game also means Florida will carry a five-point lead in the Southeast Division over the Washington Capitals into Monday’s showdown at the Bank Atlantic Center. This game also showed what this team can do when they get goals from secondary players to go with the top-line. Going forward as the Panthers get healthier, you hope that this is the output you see from lines 2-4. If they can get close to that production, there’s no reason why this teams can’t stay at the top of the division deep into the season.

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