Friday, January 16, 2009

Panthers 2 - Flyers 3 (SO)

Wow. Yes, I wish the result had been different, but what a game. After the first period, the Panthers were trailing 2-0. Then came possibly the best period of hockey the Cats have played all year. Dominating the puck, the period was played on an ice surface tilted towards the Flyers net and Antero Niittymaki. Florida was able to capitalize on 2 power plays and sent the game to the 3rd period tied at 2. Not to be outdone, the 3rd period may have been the most entertaining, fun period of hockey I've seen this year. No goals were scored, but both teams were flying, both squads needing a win in a serious way, albeit for different reasons. Florida's looking to rekindle the streak they'd been on before a scheduled 6 day vacation, and Philly trying to end a recent funk of losing tendencies. The overtime saw no goals, and the shootout ended the Panthers winning streak.

This game was so much fun to watch, and it showed what Florida can be capable of. This has become a team in every sense of the word. Every line works so hard, on both ends of the ice. The fourth line tonight, consisting of Brett McLean, Nick Tarnasky, and Anthony Stewart, looked as likely to score as the top "CPR" line. Full marks to Ville Peltonen, ignoring the broken bone (a freaking broken bone!) in his foot and playing like it wasn't even there. Richard Zednik played his best game of the year, IMO. He just looked like he was on a different level tonight, on the forecheck, creating scoring chances, and making huge plays on the backcheck. Vokoun looked comfortably solid, never wandering too far, never looking out of control. Both goals tonight came from defensemen, something Florida has gotten used to (they now lead the NHL in goals from d-men). If only Nate Horton learned how to step up into that next level...

The good news is that the Panthers have now earned at least a point in 6 straight games (4-0-2). This has brought the Cats into a tie with the Carolina Hurricanes for 2nd in the division. Unfortunately, with Pittsburgh's win tonight, the Penguins now hold a 1 point lead over Florida and Carolina in sole possession of that all-important 8th seed. Tomorrow, the Panthers head across the state to take on the recently dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning. I, too, will be heading down I-4 to take in the game. I love seeing games in Tampa, something about being a road fan in another team's barn just makes it that much better. Tonight was fun, hopefully tomorrow will just have a better result.

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