The Florida Panthers began a 4 game home stand Friday night with a game against a Western Conferenc foe the Minnesota Wild. The Panthers entered the game 10 points behind the Boston Bruins in their chase for a post season spot, which is becoming an uphill battle. James Reimer would make his 8th consecutive start for the Cats, and in a late game decision Jamie McGinn would be a last minute scratch as Connor Brickley would play in his spot. The Panthers would enjoy back to back power plays within the first four minutes of the opening period. Unfortunately they weren’t able to connect, as Wild goaltender Alex Stalock made some strong saves. Moments later the Wild received their first man advantage as this contest appeared to be heading toward a penalty filled affair. Ryan Suter, scored on a shot from inside the blueline that went off Colton Sceviour just before going past Reimer. Late in the first Vincent Trocheck tied the game up with his team leading 14th goal of the season on a nice cycling effort by his line with Denis Malgin getting an assist along with Alex Patrohvitch(Petrovic).
The second period started with a flurry as each team exchanged early scoring chances, one with Reimer sprawled on the ice, and another with Stalock giving the puck directly to Denis Malgin who whiffed on his shot attempt with a wide open net. Just as the game reached the mid way point, Wild forward Daniel Winnick was able to get a step on Alex Petrovic and put one past Reimer that I am positive Reimer would want back, as the puck sorta sneaked in. The definition of a gift on that goal. Just a plain bad play by Petro, who may not have seen too much ice time after that, playing only 9:51 the entire game. And to honest, since the name change, or pronounciation change of it, Petrovic has played worse. There was some drama late in the period as Evgenii Dadonov headed towards the net, essentially steamrolled Alex Stalock football style. The Wild received a man advantage because of it, but were unable to convert.
Jonathan Huberdeau who’s been in a goal funk as of late, tied the game at 2 with some awfully fancy stick work. It was his first shot on goal of the game, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Connor Brickley scored hi first goal since October 21st against Washington to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
Huberdeau would add an empty netter as well, making the final score 4-2 as the Panthers won their second game in a row, and their second come from behind win in the third period as well. Don’t be surprised to see Panthers backup Harri Sateri in goal tonight against Ottawa. If so, it would be his first start of the season.
As of this morning, the Panthers are 8 points out of the third spot in the Atlantic Division trailing the Boston Bruins, and are 7 points out of the final wild card spot, trialing the New York Islanders. Much work to be done, and this home stand with 3 games remaining will certainly figure in to their future depending on the results.
Head coach Bob Boughner might be learning a few things as he’s displayed some interesting decisions lately by shortening his bench in the third period against Arizona, and scratching McGinn last night after McGinn appeared in the pre game warmup. Turns out, as I type this that it was reported that McGinn was scratched because of an upper body injury. Boughner may be making some strides in his leadership of the team. And the Panthers will need more of that direction and pressure to make them more accountable and responsive.
After going to the Eastern Conference Final last season, and having been one goal away from going to the Stanley Cup final, the Senators are struggling. They’re next to last in the Eastern Conference and even the trade for Matt Duchene hasn’t helped. The Panthers will try to capitalize on that, their own two game winning streak, and continue the Senators two game losing streak as we head into Christmas.
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Merry Christmas to all!
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