Prior to this season, shootouts have long been the Achilles heel of the Florida Panthers. Even in the playoff season of 2011-12, the Cats fell eleven out of 17 times in the skills competition. Thus far in the 2013-12, the Panthers have won four out of eight, including Friday night’s 3-2, 10 round win over the league’s statistically best shootout team, the Washington Capitals.
Scott Clemmensen, certainly not most Panthers fan’s choice to have in net for the shootout, settled in the marathon shootout, stopping the last six Capital attempts while Tomas Kopecky triggered a rain of rats with his goal in the last half of the tenth round.
The first few minutes of the game started off as an old Southeast division nightmare for the Panthers as the Capitals controlled the opening faceoff and spent 40 second in the Florida zone, culminating in what appeared to be a Mike Green goal. However, the tally was waved off immediately as Martin Erat skated through Clemmensen’s crease and made slight contact as the shot was approaching the net.
Four minutes later, a Scottie Upshall took a penalty that gave the Caps, the second best powerplay in the NHL, a chance to once again grab an early. The Florida penalty kill, the second worst in the NHL, was able to keep stop the Caps and took over the game from there, outshooting Washington in every period for a 41-25 advantage overall.
After an unlikely scoreless first period, Dylan Olsen opened the games scoring early in the second as his bad-angle shot beat Philipp Grabauer. For Olsen, it was his fifth consecutive game with at least a point as he’s registered seven points (3g, 4a) in nine games since arriving in Sunrise.
With just under four minutes left, things got dicey for Florida as Erik Gudbranson check on Eric Fehr was ruled a hit to the head, which ended with Gudbranson receiving a match penalty. Replay shows that he kept his elbow down but he launched himself into the hit and the shoulder made contact with Fehr’s head, although it may not have been the primary point of contact. You be the judge:
The ensuing chaos surrounding that hit left the teams at 4-on-4 which Nicklas Backstrom turned into a 1-1 game as he finished a wide open chance from the slot. Aleksander Barkov quickly answered with a goal of his own, as he picked up a lose puck, split two defensemen and fired a shot past Grubauer to make it 2-1.
The Capitals wouldn’t head to the dressing room for the second intermission down a goal however as Joel Ward was able to bang home a loose puck just past the goal line. Initially not called a goal, a review from Toronto overturned the call on the ice and tied the game up 2-2.
A scoreless third and overtime session sent the game to the marathon shootout. Jonathan Huberdeau, Brad Boyes and Nick Bjugstad answered Capital goals to save the game for Florida, leaving room for Kopecky’s game winner.
For Florida, that four wins in five games, taking eight out of ten points. Maybe just as important, the younger players who are Florida’s future, Bjugstad, Barkov, now Olsen, are developing right before our eyes. Bjugstad, in particular, has seemingly found the on-switch as he’s been Florida’s best forward over this last run of games. Whatever Peter Horachek has done, whether it’s just a case of keeping lines together or something he’s doing in practice, it’s working for the younger players. This may just a be an isolated run but, this team is starting to show the signs of life and promise that was expected from it.
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