Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Panthers 4 - Leafs 2: McCabe's Revenge!

The Panthers closed out their 4-game road trip with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Cats ended the trip taking 5 of a possible 8 points (2-1-1) and kept pace with the Buffalo Sabres (8th seed, 3 points ahead), who also won tonight.

Stephen Weiss, Ville Peltonen, Michael Frolik, and Greg Campbell all tallied for the Panthers. Tomas Vokoun gave a solid performance as well, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

The Panthers dominated early, and were outshooting the Leafs 10-0 when Weiss fired a wrist shot over Vesa Toskala's shoulder on the Cats' 11th shot of the game at the 10:16 mark of the 1st period. The Panthers scored the next 2 goals to take a 3-0 lead that the Leafs never recovered from.

All around, it was one of the best 60 minutes of hockey the Panthers have played this season. A great start, capitalizing on enough chances to get a solid lead, and not panicking when the Leafs did close the gap to 2 on two seperate occasions. Vokoun looked as confident as ever, never really being forced to make the highlight reel save. He was in position, he was calm, and he controlled the rebounds. A great performance for T-Vo in his efforts to reclaim the #1 spot. Bryan McCabe managed to get on the score sheet against his former club, earning the 2nd assist on the opening goal. Good for him.

One of the best stories of the year so far, in my mind, is the progress and development of Michael Frolik. Through the first month or so of the season, Frolik looked lost, often confused. You could tell he wasn't sure that he belonged at the NHL level. But thanks, in part, to the injuries the Panthers suffered on the forward lines and the ice time and confidence given to Frolik by head coach Pete DeBoer, Frolik started to find his groove. Now, Frolik has a solid 17 points with his goal tonight (8 G, 9 A). Even with the injury list clearing, Frolik has proven he belongs with the big boys.

Conngrats to Tomas Vokoun, who recorded his 200th career victory tonight. The Panthers return home Thursday to take on those Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes are currently sitting just 5 points ahead of the Cats in 7th place. Until then...

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