The Florida Panthers shook off their third-period meltdown from Friday night with a solid 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
The .500 mark is a funny thing, isn’t it? The Florida Panthers have been within three games of it all season, but they can’t quite seem to get into true contention.
After winning three in a row going into the All-Star break, they were torched for four goals in the third period to lose to the Nashville Predators in Sunrise on Friday night.
Saturday, a brand new day, as it were, would see the Florida Panthers get off to a pretty hot start.
The game with the Vegas Golden Knights was tied at zero for a mere 12 seconds before Cats captain Aleksander Barkov took hold of a loose puck in the neutral zone, drove it to the right point, and blasted a wrister past a befuddled-looking Marc-Andre Fleury for a very quick 1-0 lead.
The marker was unassisted and long-overdue for Barkov. He hadn’t lit the lamp since January 8th, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and now finally has his 18th of the season.
Reimer was incensed that Knights skater Alex Tuch had interfered with him, but the goal was upheld on review, and Florida lost their time out.
I think Reimer should’ve just calmed the heck down there. His histrionics precipitated a replay request by Panthers coach Bob Boughner.
As those of us with the benefit of replay already probably knew, the interference was just the slightest of incidental contact, and the cost, although ultimately unneeded, could’ve been a big factor.
Later in the first period, Evgeni Dadonov was gifted with a penalty shot. Just by the barest of margins, he didn’t capitalize.
But let’s be clear here – he definitely beat Fleury, but the goalie just got the smallest piece of the puck, which thereafter ricocheted off the top post. The score remained tied for quite a long time afterward.
Hoffman passed offensive-minded defender Jason Garrison on the Panthers all-time leaderboard with the marker, which was also his 24th career Panthers’ goal.
Reimer wasn’t done with Pacioretty either. With five minutes remaining in regulation, Reimer *sorta* punched the forward after the whistle.
Not to get too far off the subject, but aside from Reimer’s dramatics, the guy was pretty darn good on the whole. He stopped 34-of-35 in total for his 50th career win as a Panther.
Your very favorite felines extended their lead with an empty netter, Frank Vatrano’s 17th goal of the season. Aaron Ekblad and Barkov were credited with assists on the play. Vatrano steered a loose puck from a difficult angle to turn the trick with just over a minute remaining.
And that was all she wrote. But the real story now.
What are the Florida Panthers? Are they a fringe playoff team now? Struggling for the eighth-seed, only to just miss out at the close of the season? Nine points out of eighth place, is there enough time to lead a charge with 32 games left?
I mean, nothing’s impossible, but these Florida Panthers are starting to wear out whatever remains of hometown goodwill, tonight’s relatively impressive home-leaning crowd notwithstanding.
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The Panthers have to string a bunch of these together, like that 12-game winning streak we all enjoyed a few years ago. Remember that?
Back to my opening point – the Cats have been within three games of .500 all season, but are they really? Overtime losses are real losses, which makes the Panthers 21-29 this year. Is this your playoff team?
Next up for the Kitties are the invading St. Louis Blues – another fringy looking team (at best). The Panthers are frequently guilty of playing to their level of competition, up – or down. Another win would put the team a game ‘above’ .500.