For the last month I've been preaching that the Florida Panthers needed to make hay when the sun shined as their schedule became incredibly easy. Florida did just that this afternoon with a 2-0 shutout victory at home over the fading Carolina Hurricanes. With a four game homestand on the horizon, there were certain games that weren't exactly must-win games, but ones that the team really had to win if they wanted to rumble in the post season. The Carolina game was one of them.
So Florida remains on top of the Southeast division for yet another day by one point and a game at hand over the Washington Capitals. This was a make or break game for Florida, should they have lost to the 13th place Hurricanes the easy schedule argument would have taken a costly blow. But with a victory in which Florida did everything right except score five times on Cam Ward, the prognosis on the homestand is still favorable. Though stonewalled by Cam Ward for most of the game, the Panthers took it to Carolina and controlled the momentum for two whole periods, something they must build on to continue their winning ways.
- Tyson Strachan, Jack Skille and Krys Barch would all be scratched, with Skille likely getting a maintenance day after a rough game against Pittsburgh that saw him leave early. Still no confirmation on whether he'll miss significant time.
- The first half of the first period seemed like a continuation of the Ottawa game, Florida dominated play keeping Carolina trapped in their own end for the most part. The secret? Blue jerseys.
- After the first period, Florida would lead the Hurricanes 14-5. Coincidentally, after the first period in the last matchup between teams Florida would have a dominating period and go down 2-0 before making a late comeback. Here's hoping for a little less excitement.
- Marco Sturm, Jerred Smithson and John Madden would put in a tremendous shift to tire the Carolina defenders three minutes into the second, and after changing for the Tomas Fleischmann Stephen Weiss Wojtek Wolski line, they would connect on the rush as Flash sent a shot from the top of the circles past a screened Cam Ward. Extra props for the Howard Dean screech at the end of the goal celebration.
- Keaton Ellerby and Jussi Jokinen would take minors with Ellerby going off for interference and Jokinen for diving. Old habits die hard!
- After coming back from injury, Madden has looked much better than he had before. After a few healthy scratches, Madden may have recognized that he hadn't been bringing what Dale Tallon wanted out of him and responded accordingly.
- Speaking of players having good games, Ed Jovanovski saved two sure goals in the first period and skated like a 20 year old all game.
- Florida would be badly outshot in the second period but Jose Theodore was putting in another solid night between the pipes. At some point he'll need a rest, but it's great to have a goalie that can work with the slimmest of leads.
- Fun fact, if you add the total penalty minutes between Sean Bergenheim and Stephen Weiss, they'd be second on the team. And that's with a grand total of zero fighting majors between them.
- Stephen Weiss and Tuomo Ruutu would both go off with slashing minors, and as the two exchanged pleasantries, Brian Campbell would come over and effortlessly push Ruutu down to the ice. Not exactly 'defending a teammate' but pretty funny anyways.
- Bergenheim and Weaver would hit the posts over the course of a shift. Poor Weavs is still looking for #1 on the year. After Goc's empty netter Weaver would take a slap shot from his own end for a last ditch effort. The shot would hit Jeff Skinner in the face. I'm not one to object to Skinner getting roughed up, but could you pick a better place to stand?
- Weiss would throw the puck towards the net and off the post, Smithson would be there for the rebound. Unfortunately for him, after trying to kick the puck to his stick it would go straight in. Obvious kicking motion, no goal. It was the right call.
- With Cam Ward pulled with 1:40 to go, Jerred Smithson would win the draw cleanly and Marcel Goc would sink the empty netter. Panthers win.
Chris' First Star: Again, Jose Thoedore played a perfect game and gave his team a chance to win all afternoon. Stephen Weiss also had a feisty showing.
Chris' Worst Star: Jussi Jokinen. DIVER! All the Panthers guys were good though.
Up Next: Florida closes out the season series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 1-7-2 record in their last ten in tow as the Cats look to sweep the season series with the Leafs at home. Toronto at Florida, Tuesday at 7:30