After enduring a very ugly and very demoralizing six-game losing streak, the Florida Panthers would enter the PNC Arena in Raleigh with history not on their side. Florida has struggled mightily against the Carolina Hurricanes in the past at the former RBC Center, and with only one win in their last ten games, the Panthers looked poised for another disappointing loss. However, rather than continue the losing streak, the Panthers turned in a surprisingly stout defensive effort along with an impressive offensive effort to walk out of the Canes home building with a 4-1 win. The Panthers managed to post a season-high 44 shots and held the Hurricanes to a single goal, scored by Jordan Staal. They also managed not to let up a bunch of weak trash goals in the first period, giving the team a chance to compete after the first 20 minutes ended.
This is another one of those games that leaves you scratching your head, wondering where this kind of team game came from, and why you don't see it more often. The players and coaches have to realize where a solid 60-minute team effort gets them, right? So why don't we see this kind of game from the Cats more often? It's easy to be an armchair coach but when watching the Panthers play like they did tonight, you really wonder why this kind of group effort isn't more common. Regardless, I'll take the win. It's a nice feeling to have once in awhile, no?
- Florida would start sluggish again, but for once, they didn't give up an early goal. It's safe to say that when the Cats don't let up a weak early goal, the game is much more interesting.
- Jacob Markstrom looked a lot better in this game, but still looks uncomfortable to me. He's fighting off some pucks at times and his timing looks a little off. It's still debatable if his time with the floundering big club this season is a good thing or a bad thing for him. I am leaning towards beneficial simply because he's getting NHL experience while not being relied upon to shoulder the entire goaltending load of the team. He's going to be that much more ready for next season, where he will likely end up being the man in net for Florida.
- I love how Jonathan Huberdeau gets called for diving against the Carolina Hurricanes after getting crosschecked in the back. Irony at it's best.
- I really like TJ Brennan at the point on the Panthers' powerplay. He's keeping defenses honest and his vision of the ice is pretty good. He's a steal for a 5th round pick through his first two games. We'll see if he can stay consistent for the rest of the season, because he's certainly going to get his opportunities.
- Shawn Matthias was supposedly going to be a scratch before this game got underway due to illness, but he instead suited up and certainly didn't look sick at all. He was skating hard nearly all game and although he scored a powerplay goal, his defensive play was more noticeable all evening. That's the kind of effort he needs to put out every game, and as of late he's been doing that more often than not.
- It was great to see Tomas Fleischmann get off the scoring drought he's been stuck in for quite some time. He should definitely give Tomas Kopecky a big fruit basket for his work on the forecheck though, as his effort generated the turnover that led to Flash's big third period goal. Kopecky was effective yet again for the Panthers and is still one of the most valuable guys on the ice for the Panthers each shift he takes.
- I can't wait to see Huberdeau when the Panthers are able to get him a top-tier centerman (if they ever do.) No slight to Drew Shore, who is coming into his own, but someone with the kind of finishing ability like Huberdeau needs a big center with great hands to set him up more often.
- Eric Selleck would get his first game with the big club this season (and his first NHL game too) and wasn't terrible in 7:47 of ice time. He led the team in hits and wasn't at all a liability on the ice. If he keeps playing like that, I don't think George Parros will be missed too much. However, he may not be back next game as Carolina's Kevin Westgarth pretty much one-shot Selleck with a punch to the head during a fight. Hope he's alright.
- The Panthers helped themselves a lot in this one by blocking a lot of Carolina shots and passes. The Canes couldn't seem to get much of anything set up or executed because Florida had a body or a stick in nearly every passing and shooting lane. In fact, Florida's total defensive effort was one of the best they've had over 60 minutes in quite awhile. Makes you wonder where that kind of play has been.
- Scottie Upshall was back from injury again. Why do I feel like I've typed this before? Oh, right. Upshall was pretty invisible and is really struggling to justify the contract Dale Tallon gave him two offseasons ago. So far he's not been worth the price of admission and I don't see him turning it around any time soon.