(Image Courtesy of Kim Smith)
If you had a New Year’s wish for the Florida Panthers, they would range from balanced scoring, more production from the youngsters, and not letting a slow start derail the entire game. Three’s a charm as they say and those three wishes if any one of them were yours came true Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Florida Panthers coming off a thrilling win at home Saturday night against the Flyers, may not have set out to have another thrilling victory, but they did. And you’ll gladly take the two points, as Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only goal in the shootout to get the win.
The start however wasn’t all that good as Florida found themselves down by three goals in the first period as Roberto Luongo surrendered 3 goals on just 8 shots. Not all 3 goals were Lu’s fault, as his defence kind of forgot about him. The first goal by Andreas Athanasiou, who is called “Happy To See You” by one of the Panther Parkway staffers, showed why I call him Greek Lightning, as he sped his way into the Panthers zone and made a nifty move or two to get the Wings on the board first. The kid can fly, and he has some very soft hands. Gustav Nyqvist and former Panther Thomas Vanek added two more goals in the period, and it felt like this game was out of reach.
James Reimer started the second period in relief of Luongo, and picked up from where he left off on Saturday night with another terrific performance. Reimer stopped all 12 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes, and he stopped all three shots in the shootout, which is not normally a strong part of his game. In his last two games Reimer has looked more confident, and in control than he has the entire season. He could be entering that “zone” that he frequently gets into once or twice a year where he has an incredible 5-8 game run. At this point, Florida will take it.
The final 40 minutes was all Panthers. Not sure what went on in the dressing room after the first, but I imagine that the message was loud and clear. It started with a short handed goal by Jared McCann, his 7th of the season. Then Henrik Borgstrom, who has been getting better every game scored his 3rd of the season to bring the Panthers within one goal.
I’ll add this comment regarding Borgstrom. Many have commented on why he didn’t start the season with the Panthers. Very simple. He wasn’t ready. He didn’t show enough in camp to earn a roster spot. He went to Springfield in the AHL, worked on his game, and is now taking advantage of an opportunity. Sometimes with a young player you have to do this. It’s worked out in his favor as well as the Panthers.
Jayce Hawryluk tied the game at 3 a piece with just under five minutes to go in the second period as the Cats roared back. That would be his 3rd goal of the season as well. The Panthers a completely different team from the start of the period. They fired 14 shots in the period, while holding the Red Wings to just 2. The energy that the kids are providing has certainly had a effect on the Panthers. As they get more comfortable, the Panthers will be come more confident as a team, and hopefully we’ll see the team that we thought we would at the beginning of the season.
Athanasiou would come narrowly close to giving the Wings the lead in the third period, when he scored what would have been a power play goal. Good catch by the Panthers however as they called for a review, and it was proved that Athanasiou’s trailing foot (skate) did not make contact with the blue line, and was just ahead of the puck. No goal!
Regulation and overtime finished with both teams tied at 3 and Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Panthers a victory that was well earned after a terrible start.
The Panthers are off to Buffalo on Thursday before returning to Sunrise on Saturday to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Thanks for reading.
Happy New Year to all.
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