Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Panthers 5 - Capitals 3; Break Up the Cats!

Who are these guys? After being dominated in the first period and going down 1-0, the Panthers came out of the dressing room in the second and proceeded to out work, out chance, and out luck the Washington Capitals en route to a 5-3 victory. All 5 Panther goals were scored by a different skater. Ville Peltonen tied the game early in the 2nd period. Jay Bouwmeester gave the Panthers the lead just 1:09 after Pelts tied it. Bryan McCabe gave the Cats the all important 2 goal lead. Radek Dvorak opened the scoring in the 3rd period with the eventual game winner. Greg Campbell found an empty net to ice the game after a Caps comeback ended up 1 goal short. Huge thank you to George Richards of On Frozen Pond for providing an in-game blog of tonight's TV-less game. I've been promoting Radek Dvorak for unsung player of the year so far, looks like I'm not alone. He only has 3 goals this season, but he's been one of the few players who looks like he's cared since game 1. His legs never stop moving and he always seems to be looking for someone to hit or to create a turnover. The line of Dvorak, Peltonen, and Campbell now have 9 goals over the past 5 games. It's contributions like that that will push this team onwards and upwards.

Pete DeBoer is starting to look like a wily veteran behind the bench, even though he's never coached in the NHL before this season. Since PDeB made Rostislav Olesz a healthy scratch and waived Wade Belak, the Panthers have gone 3-0-2, with wins over the conference leading New York Rangers and division leading Washington Capitals. He's been able to mix and match his lines, such as the Dvorak\Campbell\Peltonen line, even with the injuries to his top scorers. Speaking of scoring, goals are coming from all over. Jay Bouwmeester now has 3 goals in his last 4 games. Craig Anderson is 5-1-3 on the year, including a 2-0-1 stretch over the last 3 games. Don't look now, but the Panthers are just 3 points behind the 8th spot in the east, and just 6 behind division leading Washington.

Over the past few years, this kind of stretch has been reserved until late March, when the Cats string their fans along with just a dash of hope of making the playoffs. This year, the message seems to have been received a little earlier. Over the last week and a half, this team has started to create their identity; hard working, super aggressive on the forecheck, a full team effort every night. The Cats have shown spurts of this early in the year, but rarely for a full 60 minutes. Since Coach DeBoer called his team out, they've responded. Excluding David Booth and his team leading 12 goals, no one else has more then 6. But only 2 forwards have yet to score (Brett McLean and Kamil Kreps, excluding newcomers Nick Tarnasky, Shawn Matthias, and Kenndal McArdle). If the Cats are going to continue their success, they will have to get contributions from everyone on the roster, as they have lately. Great things to build on, as well as a huge confidence boost after a 2-0 quickie road trip.

More good news. No injuries to talk about after this one! Panthers return home to the BAC on Thursday to take on the Buffalo Sabres, who are just 2 points ahead of the Cats. Craig Anderson should be back in net, if you ask me. And guess what, for the first time since Saturday, local Panther fans can see it on the tele! Until then...

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