April 26, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers players celebrate scoring the tying goal against the New Jersey Devils in the third period of game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
So New Jersey's Adam Henrique painfully yet accurately will be forever memorialized in Panthers history as the South Florida equivalent of Claude Lemieux's victimization of a stunned Mike Liut in 1986 ("high to the glove side at 5:55", "back and to the left, back and to the left" immediately come to mind). In the end, it's just a game, and that's behind us.
Other cities would grudgingly absorb a loss such as that witnessed on Friday, grumble for a few days about how this-or-that move should have been made at the deadline or which guy on the roster wasn't pulling his weight or how the coach should have called for an earlier timeout, and seek to place blame for a "failed season". That's not the deal here. "Here" being among fans of this remarkable franchise, roundly selected by pundits and anyone with a soapbox to finish 14th overall in the Eastern Conference - ahead of supposed sad-sack Ottawa, which just happened to fall in a Game Seven of its own.
There are valid reasons to take exception with decisions made by coaches or management as the season progressed, but c'mon. Like Paul MacLean's Senators, Kevin Dineen motivated a Dale Tallon-constructed patchwork roster of skill, blue-collar work ethic (most nights), and old-time grit which vaulted his club into a new era of accountability and more importantly - in Florida's case - local respect from a region famous for its fickle attitude toward lackluster sports teams.
We'll be breaking down the Panthers' season and playoff run over the next few days and weeks, but for now glance once more at the picture above. Savor the sight.
Elsewhere on Thursday:
- (1) NY Rangers defeated (8) Ottawa 2-1 (REG), win series 4-3 and advance to Eastern Conference semifinal
Round Two Matchups
- (6) New Jersey vs (5) Philadelphia, begins Sunday (3 p.m./NBC)
- (7) Washington vs (1) NY Rangers, begins Saturday (3 p.m./NBC)
- (4) Nashville vs (3) Phoenix, begins tonight (9 p.m./NBCSN)
- (8) Los Angeles vs (2) St. Louis, begins Saturday (7:30 p.m./NBCSN)
Abbreviated Caterwaul today, but as always the floor is yours. How y'all feeling?