The Comeback Cats earned another point tonight, but failed to earn the bonus point in the shootout once again. These games have become so much fun to watch, with the Panthers now having earned a point in 8 straight games. The work ethic and mentality this team has grown into is phenomenal. Tonight, David Booth announced his presence with authority, playing what may have been his best game since he broke into the NHL. He single handedly put the Cats on the board in the first period, with Rocket Richard speed, earning a penalty shot and making it count. His line, with Richard Zednik and Nathan Horton, were a dominant force throughout the game. Horton's goal with just over 3 minutes left to tie it was made possible from a deft, between the legs, blind pass from Zednik. Buffalo's 2 goals just made you think the hockey gods needed a reason to laugh. Both times, the puck just crept tantalizingly over the goal line before a Panther could react.
One thing that is becoming clear is that the Panthers need to start winning games in regulation. This shootout thing hasn't exactly worked to Florida's favor. Tonight, Horton and Booth both tried to slip their shots through Ryan Miller's legs, and both times had the door slammed shut. Tomas Vokoun was simply beat by two great moves. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but I don't remember the last game that ended after 60 minutes in the Panthers' favor. Now clearly, one point is better then no points, but dropping points this way is frustrating as hell. Let's just pray that the NHL never adapts shootouts for playoff hockey. There is nothing more riveting then a triple OT playoff hockey game.
But back to the Panthers. Florida has 1 more game before the All-Star break (Wednesday against the Stars). Regardless of how the Panthers and other teams finish, there will be 4 teams separated by 4-5 points. These OT game extra points will start to mean more and more. Last year, in the East, the difference between the 5th seed and the 9th was 5 points. Carolina missed the playoffs by just 2. After Wednesday, Florida will have 37 games left. Every point matters, even those earned in shootouts. It was a solid game tonight, a great effort. Let's hope that there are many more of these left in the tank.