On a night in which the Florida Panthers played possibly one of their best all-around games of the season, the unlucky Cats still could not pull off a victory over the Buffalo Sabres, inevitably losing 4-3 in a shootout.
The action at the BB&T Center kicked off early on on Thursday night as George Parros and John Scott squared off for a heavyweight bout only 2:37 into the game. Although Parros was able to get in a few good punches, Scott eventually dropped Parros’ to his knees – giving him his second victory against the veteran figther this season. Parros last chance to beat Scott this year will come when the Panthers face the Sabres for the final time during the regular season on March 28th.
After the dust had settled from the brawl, the real action got underway as the Panthers and Sabres combined for an astounding 5 goals during the first period of play alone. Although he was impressive in his shutout relief appearance of Jose Theodore on Tuesday night, backup Scott Clemmensen just didn’t seem to have his head on straight Thursday against the Sabres. Clemmensen allowed 3 goals on just 10 shots before being pulled in favor of Jose Theodore. Much like Theodore’s performance on Tuesday night, Clemmensen fell victim to allowing soft and costly goals – a trend that hopefully won’t continue for either netminder.
Early on, the Sabres took full advantage of Clemmensen’s vulnerability, taking a 2 goal lead and making it seem like the Panthers’ were going to be blown out like they had been many times earlier this season. However, that would not end up being the case tonight as the Panthers’ offense was able to recuperate and put together an effective scoring attack that had the Sabres on their heels through most of the 2nd and 3rd periods.
Although the Panthers’ combined for 43 shots as a team, it was the outstanding play of Brian Campbell and Marcel Goc that really stood out tonight. After defenseman Mike Weaver went down with an injury early in the 1st period, Brian Campbell stepped up and and clocked a whopping 33:16 minutes of ice time and was solid on both ends throughout the night. Along with his overall defensive prowess, Campbell was able to earn 2 points on the night including the goal that sent the game into overtime – his first even strength goal of the season.
Not to be outdone by Campbell, forward Marcel Goc also had a spectacular night playing his usual well rounded game while also earning a goal and an assist for the evening. However, Goc’s moment of the game was not his own goal, but rather his assist on Brian Campbell’s game tying score. Late in the game, Goc was charged with the difficult task of winning a key faceoff late in the 3rd period when the Panthers were in dire need of a score. Well, Goc fully succeeded in his duties, winning a clean faceoff back to Brian Campell who would then score the game tying goal on a beautiful slap shot.
After a scoreless overtime period, the Panthers headed to a shootout where both Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller were stopped by goaltender Ryan Miller, thus giving way to a Sabres’ victory. After tonight, the Panthers are now 1-5 in games that go to overtime and have still yet to find a way to win close games when they really need to.
On a night in which they could have won easily, the Panthers’ terrific offensive effort was simply met with a stalwart goaltending performance by the Sabres’ Ryan Miller. Miller survived onslaught after onslaught and stopped an astounding 40 of 43 shots as well as both shootout attempts. If this were any other game, the Panthers may have easily walked away with a victory.
Although only getting one point may be viewed as a disappointment, the Panthers most important games are still ahead of them. In the coming days the Panthers will have two crucial games against the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes. If the Panthers can manage to take both games from the Canes then their whole playoff outlook may look very different by next week.
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- After suffering an injury in the first period, defenseman Mike Weaver is reportedly set to miss an undisclosed amount of time. Losing a defenseman like Weaver could prove to be trouble for the Panthers as they are already have a very thin blue line. In the mean time, expect Colby Robak to see some playing time in Weaver’s absence – at least until Ed Jovanovski returns from injury as well.
- Rookie forward Drew Shore was able to score his second career goal on Thursday night as his ability to continuously put shots on net is starting to pay off. Although this goal only moves Shore’s shot % up to a meager 3.7% for the season, the fact that he isn’t afraid to take shots at his age is a very good sign. The deeper we get into the season, the more I expect Shore’s shots to find the back of the net.
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