Well that game had everything, didn't it? It was hard for me to recognise the team in the dark blue sweaters during the first period. Going into the corners and winning the puck? Maintaining pressure in the offensive zone? Limiting Carolina's chances to just one shot and then clearing it? Scoring twice?!? For the first 20 minutes, it looked like coach DeBoer's off-ice scheming had paid off.
Then came the 2nd. Ohhhh, there are my Panthers! Now I recognise this! 25 seconds into the period, Tuomo Ruutu (one of those names you'll only find in the NHL) put a rebound past Tomas Vokoun. Then, just a minute and 48 seconds later, Chad Larose found the puck behind Vokoun and the game was tied. Whoops!
It was here that the game was decided. DeBoer took a timeout. The Panthers settled down. No, they didn't dominate the rest of the game like they did the first period, but they played hard and did the little things that earned them the win. With just over 2 minutes left in the 2nd period, Ville Peltonen wheeled out of the corner and fired a shot that deflected off of Gregory Campbell and into the net for the winning goal.
The third period saw no scoring, but lots of good play from both ends. This game had the feel of an actual, NHL game! Hard hitting, good play on both ends of the ice, and an exciting, frantic end that saw the Panthers kick off their 3 game homestand on a positive. I gotta give it up to Ville Peltonen. He'd only scored 1 goal this season going into tonight and was one of the player's that had high expectations going into the season, especially as a veteran presence on this team (he's 35 and captained Finland's national team to a bronze medal in this summer's World Championships). He scored once and had the initial shot on the game winning goal, and was a presence on the ice all night. He stepped it up big tonight, and hopefully will lead to other's on the team following his foot steps.
Someone who's leading the way for the Cats is David Booth. Man, that kid is on fire. He hits the blue line full speed and and picks his spots with the best of them. Tonight's goal was spectacularly similar to his goal in Boston. Flying into the zone on the off wing and using the defenseman as a screen, he ripped a wrister far post for the game's first goal. This guy's gonna do good things for us. Actually, since Nathan Horton was moved back to his natural wing postition, the "Sunrise Express" has been reuinted. Stephen Weiss, Booth, and Horton were superb tonight. It does put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, but those eggs were gold tonight! If the Cats can get scoring from a few more guys on a more consistent basis, there might be hope after all (and I really wish I hadn't just said that, but it's true).
Day off tomorrow before the Devils come to town, a team that the Panthers outplayed but lost to in New Jersey just 4 nights ago. They've actually won 4 in a row now, thanks to backup interim Broduer-wannabe Scott Clemmensen. I'm sure the Bouwmeester talk will continue, and Wade Belak will have to be dealt with somehow. With the injury list piling up again, he may actually get a chance for retribution. Tonight's addition to the trainer's room was Richard Zednik, who left in the 2nd with an "arm injury" and didn't return. Looking forward to more updates on him. Any chance Shawn Matthias might get another shot? Bottom line is, great start to the home stand with 2 points over a division foe. A great 20 minutes, a horrible 10 minutes, followed by a hard working, game winning effort in the final 30. Something to build on, to be sure.