While it wasn't exactly the homecoming we were all hoping for, the Florida Panthers would post a solid 65 minute effort but ultimately lose the shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers. While the final outcome certainly may sting like a loss, the Panthers simply have to put the point in the bank and expand upon the positives. In the end, the come from behind effort and resiliency to the Flyers offense speaks more about the team going forward than losing in a skills competition. We all know this, we've told ourselves this all season. Look at it this way, a stolen win in Winnipeg or a shootout loss in which the Panthers played well against a top 10 team; which is a more accurate representation of the Panthers that won earlier in the season? It's a missed opportunity, but the positives in this matchup are what the team will build on going forward past the All-Star break.
1st: Scott Clemmensen would earn his second consecutive start for Florida with Sergei Bobrovsky in net for the Flyers. Tom Sestito would get called early into the first with a charge on Keaton Ellerby, and the Flyers would have to pay for it. A few great chances by Stephen Weiss would scramble the Flyers killers out of position, a pass would be sent to the point where Mikael Samuelsson would fire it home, assists to Brian Campbell and Weiss. Other than a few chances here and there for Philly, the Cats would control play for a good while after the goal, finally utilizing some speed to force breakouts and rushes like we hadn't seen on the roadtrip. Erik Gudbranson would be called off for interference, and this time the Flyers would capitalize. Brayden Schenn's shot would pop off the shoulder of Clemmensen and fall behind into the net. The goal would be reviewed because the net would be dislodged as the puck crossed the line, but after a lengthy discussion with Toronto the call on the ice stood as a good goal to tie the game. With two minutes left in the period, Jakub Voracek would tip a harmless shot from Sestito through a gap in Clemmensen's coverage to gain the lead to 2-1 at the horn.
2nd: Mike Santorelli would trip up Matt Read as he entered the zone, but active penalty killing would keep the Flyers from setting much up. Tomas Kopecky would be called for a hooking penalty as he pulled Voracek off balance, but again good penalty killing would keep the score 2-1. Even when the Panthers weren't shorthanded, you could see Philadelphia tighten the belt defensively and tip the ice towards Clemmensen; in essence taking over the game. With the Flash-Weiss-Steeg line reassembled momentarily, Kris Versteeg would catch an outlet pass from Weiss and skate in all alone on Bobrovsky. Versteeg would deke Bob out of position, spin around and drop a pass for a trailing Fleischmann who'd pot it in the empty net. A bit of pressure from the Flyers would be stifled by the horn, with both teams heading to the locker room tied at 2.
3rd: The period would start off a bit slower as both teams hesitated to make the first move, there would be chances here and there but neither team could draw a penalty or create a quality chance. The first and second lines would have the best chances as the period neared the midpoint, and perimeter shots from the Flyers would be smothered by Clemmensen. Matt Read would be called in his offensive zone for tripping, giving Florida their second man advantage of the night. Flash would ring one off the iron, but the powerplay would be unsuccessful. The Flyers would put some late shots on net, but Clemmensen would stand tall as the game headed to extra time.
Overtime: Jason Garrison would take a pass at mid ice and hustle in beating the Flyers defensemen, but his shot in all alone would be stopped by Bobrovsky. Each team would have a few minutes of pressure, but ultimately the game would head to a shootout.
Shootout: Brayden Schenn would have his first ever attempt blocked by Clemmensen. Versteeg's move wouldn't beat Bobrovsky. Claude Giroux hung out Clemmensen with a pretty goal. Weiss' backhand shot would be gloved by Bob. Voracek would hit the post. Santorelli's shot would be saved as Philadelphia prevailed winning the shootout 1-0 and the game 3-2.
- Though its hard to feel too much sympathy for other teams injury-wise after all the Panthers have gone through, Philly really has been decimated. The difference is that while Florida has had injuries to extremities or 'the core', the Flyers have more concussions than you can shake a stick at. Being able to (mostly) avoid the head injuries has been incredibly lucky this season for the Panthers.
- I've said it before; Matt Bradley is scary looking. He's been high-sticked and punched so many times his face has an irremovable scowl, in fact I don't think I've ever seen him smile. Even if he did, I assume he'd still be terrifying.
- I know Goc owns the market for vampire nicknames, but can we please call Tyson Strachan 'Strackula'? Strachan played just fine tonight, by the way.
- After being benched vs Chicago, Mike Santorelli has played a much more complete game; he's forcing plays with active backchecking rather than skating around the neutral zone hoping for a pass like he was before.
- I can't beleieve theres enough demand for Rammstein to come to the BAC. What are they gonna do, play Du Hast for 2 hours?
- It was twitter night for the Fox Sports crew. We learned many things about Bill Lindsay like his favorite golf course and that no one taught him what a metaphor is. *cough*HEADOFSTEAM*cough*
- Kris Versteeg has his legs back, unfortunately no one can keep up with him to form an odd man rush or be there for a pass.
- Weiss in Colorado, Versteeg in Winnipeg and now Flash in Sunrise. We saw the gears catching during the losing streak, but now a little momentum has them grinding back into motion.
- On a similar note, I'm kinda surprised Flash caught the pass and shot it into the net from 10 feet out. Feeling confident eh? I would've just skated it into the net.
- Despite being terribly out-hit through the first period, Florida lead the Flyers after two with 24. There isn't a perfect correlation between hitting and winning or hitting with...anything, but physicality does make a team that much harder to play against. I believe Dineen has preached that from day one.
- Prior to the second Panthers goal, Goldie went fishing saying something along the lines of 'here comes Tomas Fleischmann, boy he could really use a goal'. A minute later Flash would be on the board. Oh Steve, you so sneaky.
- Anyone else notice Mike Weaver stepping into play multiple times tonight? If he's planning on providing offensively while Kulikov is out, that's just fine by me.
- Clemmensen wouldn't have a 40 save game like he did in Winnipeg, but his 35 saves would do the trick to get the Cats to the shootout.
Up Next: An 8 day break and the All-Star Game (I'll literally be heading into the mountains to wait that monstrosity out) followed by a game with Washington with the division on the line.