The Florida Panthers came into Nashville Saturday night riding an emotional high from the night before in beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, spurred by the return of Vincent Trocheck, who had missed 27 games due to injury. The energy that Trocheck provided continued for another 60 minutes as the Panthers handed the Predators their 4th loss in 5 games, and their 2nd in a row.
The Panthers had an early power play chance when Predator’s defenceman Dan Hamhuis was called for interference, and Aaron Ekblad launched a missle past netminder Jusse Saros for his 9th goal of the season. The goal aslo gave Ekblad sole possession of first place among all Panther defencemen in goals scored with 62.
Frank Vatrano scored later in the first, and Vincent Trocheck scored his 4th goal of the season early in period two. Meanwhile Panther goaltender James Reimer was having a very solid game. He was tested a few times, but the Panthers did a fairly good job of not giving up too many quality scoring chances. Yes there were a couple odd man rushes that the defence allowed, but Reimer was up to the task.
Here’s a replay of the Trocheck goal:
Nashville made it very interesting as Nick Bonino and Austin Watson scored 38 seconds apart to cut the lead to 1. And things got a whole lot more interesting. The crowd was back in the game, and the Preds were, you know, being very predatory. Nashville fired 30 shots at Reimer in the final two periods. But Reimer was in a zone, and his defenders were actually in the same zone.
Coach Bob Boughner was praising Reimer following the game:
“For me, it was his best game of the year. I thought that he was seeing the puck, he was moving, he was aggressive, he was at the top of his crease, his rebound control was good. I thought he really fought hard for everything and looked good in there”.
One thing that’s been nice to see the past two games has been the play of youngsters Ian McCoshen and Josh Brown. Neither looks out of place, and both have shown some much needed physicality. An element that’s been missing from the team overall, but especially from the defencemen.
Jared McCann scored the “insurance” goal with just over 8 minutes to play allowing the Panthers to regain their composure a bit, as it looked as they were “sitting” on the lead at certain points.
So we’ve seen two solid games in a row with a roster that is healthy, seemingly well rounded, and playing with what appears to be new found energy and confidence. The Panthers still remain 12 points out of the final wild card spot, so nothing has been solved, and nothing has been fixed. There’s a long way to go, and one of the things they’ll need to find is consistency. I’m not looking for another 25-10 run like last season. The issues that were the issues before this 2 game streak are still there. But the wins are something to build on.
San Jose, which features 8 players with double digits in goals is up next on Monday.
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