The Florida Panthers battled back from a 1-0 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 last night at Joe Louis Arena. The Cats collected their fifth road win of the season and moved past the New York Islanders into 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Baby steps people... Watch out Ottawa and Columbus we're coming for you too!
Daniel Cleary opened the scoring with his second goal of the season. Tim Thomas rebounded a Justin Abdelkader shot right to Cleary, who proceeded to deposit the puck into the yawning net at the 4:06 mark of the first frame.
The Panthers struck back early in the second period to tie the game. Shawn Matthias rocketed down the wing and ripped a shot at goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. The Monster appeared to have the puck, but it slipped out, and an opportunistic Jimmy Hayes banged it in for his third goal. Dylan Olsen picked up the second assist on the even-strength marker.
Florida outshot the Wings by a robust 17-5 margin in the middle frame, but Gustavsson managed hold the Cats at bay and keep the game even.
Florida finally took the lead at 3:29 of third, when Jonathan Huberdeau roofed a backhand from in close to finish off a nice passing play between Tom Gilbert and Matthias. The goal was Huberdeau's seventh of the campaign.
Thomas turned aside all nine Detroit shots in the final stanza to secure the win. Gustavsson suffered his first loss in regulation this season.
Some quick observations
- This was the first division win of the season for Florida. Long overdue, but hopefully a sign of things to come.
- Former Panther Stephen Weiss was a dud in his first game against his old team. The Cats put the clamps on number 90, as Weiss failed to register even a single shot on goal
- Second solid performance in a row for Timmeh!, who looked like he was starting to fade a bit during the three losses on the recent homestand. The Panthers kept the shots down and Thomas did his part by holding the Wings to a single goal, giving the Cats a good chance to win, despite coming up with only two goals themselves.
- Real nice to see Huberdeau get the game-winner. Hubs used his sweet hands to put Gustavsson at his mercy in tight and didn't miss.
- Another night where the Versteeg trade looks like a win-win for the Panthers. Hayes pots his third goal and Dylan Olsen (who some Blackhawks fans said was too slow and strictly AHL-caliber) now has 4 points in 6 games with Florida. Kris who?
- Yesterday morning, Aleksander Barkov was rumored to be out of the lineup with an injury, but he did end up playing. Barkov struggles continued as he failed to register a point or a shot on goal, and finished the game with a -1 rating. I think the Panthers should reconsider the decision to not let Barkov play for Finland at the WJC. The kid could use the tourney to get his confidence back.
- And last but not least, hats off to Shawn Matthias who earned first star honors for his two helpers against the team that drafted him back in 2006. Alright Danger!
The Cats will be in Chicago, looking for their their third-straight win, tonight at 7 PM to conclude the two-game road trip. Join us on the GameThread at 6:30. Let's Go Panthers!