Returning players help Panthers to a point; Florida falls in overtime to Rangers

As disappointing as the overall season series with the New York Rangers was, the disappointment certainly shouldn't stem from the 3-2 overtime loss tonight. Despite the fact people up and down the hockey universe predicted the Rangers would fall into a Winter Classic hangover, it still seemed like a tall task to defeat a team with an incredible amount of firepower. The Rangers did seem to fall into a hangover, for all of about five minutes. After that, they were the same old team. Give a hand to the Florida Panthers for finding a way to snare a point from a game they really had no business winning. Thank the players for taking an early lead and bouncing back immediately when needed, and thank the goaltender for keeping the game close.

These losses in overtime or the shootout are discouraging, some things still need improvement, but with some of the scoring returning from the IR things are undoubtedly looking up for the Panthers. The Cats are done playing the Rangers for the regular season, so with that chapter closed Florida can set their sights on other opponents. Put the point in the bank and continue playing with A+ effort and the wins will come in bunches.




1st: Martin Biron and Scott Clemmensen would be starting tonight in New York, Keaton Ellerby Krys Barch and John Madden would be the scratches. Mikael Samuelsson and Marcel Goc would make their return to the lineup as well. Compared to the last matchup with the Rangers, Florida would get off to a pretty good start. The aforementioned Goc and Samuelsson would do the damage on a 2-on-1, with Sammy sending a perfect pass to Goc who'd roof the puck over the shoulder of Biron for a 1-0 lead, Matt Bradley would also snag an assist. Later in the period Brandon Prust and Michael Rupp would catch the Panthers changing lines and swoop in on a 2-on-1, but ultimately Clemmensen would keep the puck out of the net. As the period wound down, Anton Stralman would get on the board when his wrist shot was deflected in front and into the net to tie the game at one (assist to Ruslan Fedotenko). With twenty seconds remaining Mike Weaver would get called for boarding, but the period would end before the Rangers could do any damage.

2nd: The remainder of the Weaver penalty would be killed quite effectively with Goc and Tomas Kopecky as the PK forwards. The Rangers late momentum from the first period would be slowed as Florida stepped up their game in response. Unlike the last meeting between these two teams, the game seemed perfectly even at times with both clubs only having minimal scoring chances. Fedotenko would check Mike Santorelli hard into the boards earning a boarding call, translating into the Panthers first powerplay of the night. The Panthers would send a few shots towards Biron, but the Rangers foiled the powerplay units as they went to set up. Derek Stepan would have a nice chance with a minute left, but Clemmensen was in the zone and kept the Rangers from capitalizing. The period would end 1-1.

3rd: 4 minutes into the period the Panthers would take a bench minor for too many men, Santorelli would elect to take a seat. Halfway through the kill the Rangers would make it count, Brad Richards would be credited with the goal after his shot deflected off Weaver. With his back theoretically to the wall, Mike Santorelli was tired of being the 'goat. First he has people dragging his name through the mud with trade talk, then his ice time dwindled, then Dineen throws his butt in the penalty box. Santorelli was due. He'd skate the puck in from the redline and to the left boards, sending a shot in that would beat Biron clean. Assisting on this goal was Brian Campbell and Samuelsson(his second assist of the night). Again, Dineen must have been sleeping as the Panthers would take another too many men penalty, this time Samuelsson would sit. The powerplay would thankfully be killed with 7 minutes remaining. The Rangers would continue to send shots towards Clemmensen, but the scoring would cease as the two teams headed to overtime.

Overtime: Both teams would start overtime with their top forwards and defensive pairings. Clemmensen would come up with some timely saves to keep the Panthers alive, but too many big names would have too much space to work their magic. Stepan would leave a drop pass for Marian Gaborik, who'd one-time his shot stick side beating Clemmensen and ending the game 3-2. Florida earns a point.

Observations:

  • You could sure see the lull surrounding the Rangers early on after their big win in Philly. Even their TV guys recounted seemingly every shift from the Winter Classic throughout the game. They even re-enacted the last minute penalty shot with stick figures and Xs and Os as play went on in the background.
  • Michal Repik would save a goal as the offensive juggernaut Mike Rupp had an open net to shoot at when Clemmensen slid out of position. Repik would get his stick on Rupp's to change the angle of the shot for Clemmensen to cover.
  • Watch Mike Santorelli carefully the next few games, his play has become more noticeable lately. Perhaps with the signing of Madden, Santorelli is furiously trying to save his ice time and roster spot. Edit: Whatdya know? He scored!
  • Former President Bill Clinton was in attendance, front row on the attack once side. Pretty cool.
  • The second period was unbelievably tight with both teams only sending a total of 13 shots on net. Florida would only have 13 through 40 minutes and 21 in the entire game.
  • If it wasn't for playing such a defensively stingy team, Marcel Goc would have a hat trick tonight. It seemed he was the only Panther who wasnt afraid of crossing the blueline.
  • Sammy would take a beaming slapshot off the helmet as the third starting, confirming that the hockey gods do indeed intend to injure us into oblivion. He'd be OK, though.
  • How about Clemmensen? Just when everyone is ready to give up on him he brings two solid performances to the table. Tonight he saved 38 of 41 and kept Florida in the game countless times. Two deflections and a laser beat him. That was all.

Up Next: An expressionless ambush on Peter DeBoer's Devils. And perhaps the triumphant return of John Madden? Devils. Panthers. Friday at 7.

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