2018 has been quite the rollercoaster ride for the Florida Panthers, which meant that they wanted to end the year off with a victory: the best possible result.
There have been a lot of ups and downs for the Florida Panthers throughout the first half of the 2018-19 season. And despite the level of inconsistency that they’ve shown, they still sit somewhat close to a playoff spot.
As weird as that may sound – which is based largely on their play – the Panthers had a chance to end off 2018 on good terms, with a win against their divisional opponent: the Detroit Red Wings.
Strong starts in the last couple of games have been the norm for the Cats, but in this match, that wasn’t quite the case.
After Andreas Athanasiou opened the scoring, the floodgates immediately shot open. The Panthers continued to crumble, and the Red Wings just couldn’t stop scoring.
Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek each scored less than a minute apart to give the home side a 3-0 lead heading into the dressing room after a period of play. Goaltender Roberto Luongo was also pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots.
Typical of Florida to go down three goals in a span of twenty minutes to open up the hockey game. All hope seemed lost, as many were banking on an embarrassing loss to end off the year.
But while many (including myself) may have lost hope for just a few minutes, the team (itself) didn’t and fought back with courage.
Jared McCann led the comeback, scoring the Panthers’ first shorthanded goal of the season to cut the Red Wings’ lead down to two (3-1).
Minutes later, Henrik Borgstrom squeezed a shot through Howard’s legs to bring the Panthers within one (3-2). The Cats weren’t done there as they continued throwing everything towards Jimmy Howard’s way.
It was only a matter of time until the Panthers struck even, and thanks to Jayce Hawryluk – who happened to be in the right place at the right time – the Cats had managed to turn the game completely around in less than a period of play.
Despite the constant back and forth play, neither side could break the deadlock as the third and overtime weren’t enough to settle a winner.
The end of the third (for the Panthers) became a little desperate as they struggled to get pucks out of their zone. But thanks to James Reimer’s stellar performance, the Cats were able to hang on.
And, Reimer’s shootout may have been broken initially when Athanasiou came storming down on the wing to pop a backhander top shelf, but the refs were there to review the play and overturn it with clear-cut evidence that the play was offside.
Overtime was another thriller, and it took a couple of big saves from Reimer to keep his side alive. In the shootout, Optimus Reims also did his part by stopping all three Red Wing attempts, with Huberdeau coming up clutch by scoring the shootout winner.
After a horrendous start to the game, it was fantastic to see this group rally from behind to complete the comeback victory. Because in the end, the Panthers could not afford to end the year off with a loss – something they had too much of during the first half of the season.
Stay tuned for our Florida Panthers New Year’s Resolution piece where we break down what the Panthers can do to turn their season and new year around.