The Florida Panthers had their chances to come away with a winning record on their five-game road trip, but fell to 4-3 to the Calgary Flames, as Reto Berra denied Jimmy Hayes after Sean Monahan converted in the sixth round of the shootout. The win snapped Calgary's six-game home losing skid.
The Cats finished the rugged trek with a respectable 2-2-1 record, but have to feel somewhat disappointed leaving Alberta with a single point, out of a possible four, after beating stronger teams in Colorado and Vancouver.
Tom Gilbert notched his first goal of the season on an assist from Nick Bjugstad to open the scoring at 15:14 of a quiet first period that saw the Panthers outshoot the Flames by a 6-3 margin. Bjugstad won a face-off straight back to Gilbert, who drove it past a screened Berra.
The Flames would finally get on the board at the 9:00 minute mark of the second frame when Mike Mottau whiffed on a clearing attempt and the puck ended up on the stick of Joe Colborne. Colborne fired a nice shot past Tim Thomas for his third of the year.
Calgary would claim the lead just over three minutes later when Sven Baertschi slapped in a rebound with the Flames on a power play. Colborne and T.J. Brodie drew the assists on the goal, which came with just six seconds left on Shawn Matthias' hooking penalty.
Thomas, who was making his eighth straight start, would absolutely rob Baertschi later in the frame to keep the score 2-1. The veteran goaltender finished with 21 saves.
The Flames stayed hot early in the third and extended their lead to two on a Blair Jones goal at 5:40. Cats' defender Dmitry Kulikov failed to break up Mikael Backlund's pass to Lance Bourna, leaving Bourna plenty of space and time to find a wide-open Jones in front of the net.
After the Jones goal, Florida roared back to forge a tie and send the game to extra time, guaranteeing them at least a .500 trip.
Jimmy Hayes would notch his first in a Panthers uniform after collecting a loose puck that made its way into the Calgary end and calmly shooting into an empty net. Berra tried to poke the puck away from an onrushing Matthias but failed, paving the way for Hayes to cut the deficit at 7:02 of the frame.
With just under six minutes remaining in the period, Marcel Goc would even things up with his sixth of the campaign by beating Berra from in close. Sean Bergenheim and Scott Gomez, who both returned to game action in this one, combined to set up the goal.
In the shootout, Jiri Hudler scored in the second round before Brad Boyes converted in the third round to keep things going. Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Fleischmann both found the net in round four. After Lee Stempniak and Bjugstad failed in round five, Mohanan fired a hard shot past a helpless Thomas in the sixth round for the eventual-winner. Hayes was stuffed by Berra on a backhand attempt, giving Calgary the bonus point.
- Kudos to the Panthers for battling back to collect a point after being behind 3-1 in the third. Unfortunately, the lack of a strong sixty minute effort cost them again. The Cats were the better team in the first (slightly) and third period but were soundly outplayed in the middle frame. The results might be better under Peter Horachek than they were under Kevin Dineen, but this is a problem that needs to get solved at some point.
- The Panthers did an excellent job limiting Hudler, Cammalleri, and Monahan in regulation, but poor plays by Mottau and Kulikov directly led to goals by lightweights Joe Colborne and Blair Jones. Mottau needs a ticket back to San Antonio pronto, and Kulikov... sometimes I wonder if he is trying to versteeg his way out of South Florida.
- Florida torched the five-man unit of Matt Stajan, Cammalleri, Stempniak, Dennis Wideman, and Chris Butler. The quintet all finished the game with a minus three rating.
- Hats off to Nick Bjugstad, who picked up another assist and led the way with five shots on goal. Big #27 now has points in seven of his last nine games, and finished the trip with helpers in four of five contests. Now it's time for Bjugs to start finding the back of the net more often.
- You can take a gander at the opposition's GameThread at Matchsticks & Gasoline. Doesn't look like those folks are much into recaps.
The Panthers return home to begin a five-game homestand, starting with Monday's match against the Philadelphia Flyers.