The video above, co-starring Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov - a veteran of precisely zero fisticuffs in 130 NHL games - is quite possibly the best representation of what went down in Sunrise on Saturday night.
For the record: Hotel Kuli's dance partner, New York Islanders forward Blake Comeau, had the same number of fights heading in to the evening. Strange yet compelling stuff all around, and more so considering a one-point separation between these two clubs in the standings circa 7pm. As things currently sit, FLA and NYI are tied with 68 points; the Cats hold a one game-in-hand advantage, depending upon your view at this time of year.
Regarding that "view"...it was difficult distinguishing those few still hanging on for the postseason from the hordes - myself included - cheering on the eventual strategic advantage of a high lottery pick: as has been the case of late, the Panthers made it easy to climb aboard and throw the future to the wind. Said it myself in the Game Thread: Win or lose, "tank" or no "tank", this was a club worth getting behind. Not because the playoffs are in sight, and certainly not for another long summer. Simply for the fun in watching a terrific hockey game involving players who are enjoying the ride. Bravo, Cats and Isles. It was a good one.
Notes: Get this out of the way early: Michael Grabner netted a shorthanded goal to open the scoring a 5:13 of the second frame. Now please let it go. Scorers: (FLA) - Evgeny Dadonov (2), Stephen Weiss. Assists - Clay Wilson, David Booth, Sergei Samsonov (2), Kulikov, Niclas Bergfors; (NYI) - Grabner, P.A. Parenteau, Micheal Haley. Assists - Frans Nielsen, Jack Hillen, Grabner. SO: (FLA) - saves on Mike Santorelli and Samsonov; (NYI) - goals by Nielsen and Parenteau. Goaltenders: (FLA) - Scott Clemmensen 18 saves; (NYI) - Rick DiPietro 29 saves. Niclas Bergfors and Mike Santorelli each had 5 SOG. FLA led in hits with 31-25 (Ryan Carter - who had a beast of a night - paced all players with 6). More from Lighthouse Hockey here.
Couldn't let this ^ go: The Russia House, Redux. Dadonov blasts his second of the night, assisted by Samsonov and Kulikov. Sick effort by a roster headed for the Osterizer in July. Kudos.
Next up: Panthers hit the road for a Tuesday show at MSG against the Rangers; Live Game Thread at 6:30.