Stephen who? Marcel Goc officially took over first line center duty, between Tomas Fleischmann and a freshly healed Kris Versteeg, from the departed Stephen Weiss and promptly fired in the third period game-winning goal as well as the empty-net clincher in the Florida Panthers 4-2 win over the Stars in Dallas Thursday night.
It was the second NHL brace of Goc's career, the first coming when he was a member of the Nashville Predators during a 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on November 18, 2010. Goc scored his two goals against Dallas on three shots and won a very impressive sixteen of the twenty faceoffs he took during the tilt.
There is no denying Goc is a talented player, he was a first round pick (20th overall) of the San Jose Sharks back in 2001 after all, but he has never been one to pile up the points at the NHL level. His career high is the 30 posted during the 2009-10 season. However, if the 30-year-old center can deliver more performances like last night's and step up his point production, he can help fill the void left by Weiss' departure and give the Panthers a much better shot at competing for a playoff spot.
The season-opening win over Dallas caps a frantic week of positive change for the Florida Panthers organization and its fanbase, who saw Tim Thomas sign on to solidify the team's goaltending, Vincent Viola and Douglas Cifu introduced as the club's new owners a day later, and GM Dale Tallon patch the remaining roster holes by inking veterans Brad Boyes, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney to one-year deals and re-acquiring tough guy Krys Barch.
Things are definitely looking up in Sunrise, hopefully Goc and the rest of the Cats can keep the good mojo going as the road show continues in St. Louis on Saturday night.