Florida Panthers Close Out 2013 Season With 5-3 Victory Over Tampa Bay Lightning

USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Huberdeau adds a huge 3-assist night to his Calder resume as Florida comes from behind to beat Tampa Bay.

With a 5-3 comeback win over their cross-state rival, the nightmare has finally ended. The 2013 lockout shortened season was far from kind to the Panthers, but with a guaranteed top two draft pick which will likely be one of Seth Jones or Nathan McKinnon and a high second rounder; at least the Panthers management will be busy this summer.

A lot of things went wrong this season, nearly every player on the roster missed time or went through a brutal cold streak, opening the door for a heap of 1st NHL games/goals/points and the such. The season started with a blowout win on banner raising night, then slipped into one long losing streak with scattered wins. The Panthers added three rookies who will likely stay in the NHL for the rest of their careers in Calder candidate Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and Jacob Markstrom, while the deadline saw Florida part ways with Jerred Smithson for a draft pick. From there the Cats locked down 30th spot with a loss to Toronto and finished it all off with a nice 5-3 win in front of a visiting crowd of fans in Tampa.

A tough season, but at least it was a short one. Next year the Cats will be back in a new division to make a stab at another playoff spot, while the rookie revolution will undoubtedly continue.

Observations:

Forwards:

  • Jonathan Huberdeau - Started out the game having to fend for himself in the crease, so it was cool to see him stand on his own two feet in that regard. Earned assists on Flash's two goals plus another on the empty netter to take the rookie scoring lead, though I still wouldn't hold my breath on the Calder. Looked pretty swell tonight if you ask me.
  • Tomas Fleischmann - Flubbed on the breakout pass which led to Tampa's first goal, but made up for it with two of his own. With 35 points in 48 games, Flash is only about one point off of his career high 61 point season set last year, despite being on a far worse team. He's my Panthers MVP.
  • Drew Shore - Assisted on Flash's goal, his first non-empty-netter-turned-game-winner in forever. Shore has been playing with a wrist injury and will require surgery at the end of the season. Sounds familiar, right? I'm really not understanding the logic of keeping a young player on the roster when they need surgery; it's not like the Cats are in a playoff race or anything important. If you're wondering why the Panthers have injury problems, maybe it's because the medical staff and coaching are reluctant to protect their players from recurring injuries. Weiss, Shore, Howden(concussion precautions not taken despite having history)...and the list surely goes on at a micro scale. Just a theory.
  • Shawn Matthias - Matty brought his work boots, but he's lost his scoring tough. This is a recording, you've heard this before.
  • Scottie Upshall - Played the trailer on a lot of plays early on, nearly tucked one in when Lindy completely missed the puck MA Fleury in the Philly series style. Picked up the tying goal from Selleck, which puts him up to 4(!). Good game to finish out the season, 19 days on the job site without injury as he heads into the offseason.
  • George Parros - I saw him twice.
  • Nick Bjugstad - Scored his first NHL goal on the rush when he sent a shot off in close to the defender and beat Lindback top shelf.
  • Quinton Howden - Yep, he skated fast, created chances, bulled his way into the zone...essentially doing what he does. At this point he's just a faster Jack Skille, with more upside. Like a lot of rookies on this team, he's not ready for long term NHL time, but if he can find his scoring touch he'll be back with the Cats before you know it.
  • Marcel Goc - Quiet. Goc has been cold over the last stretch of games and hasn't made a blip on my radar. His empty netter would make it the second time he scored the Panthers final goal of the season.
  • Eric Selleck - Selleck made a great steal from Lecavalier, had partial breakaway in which his shot rebounded off Lindback and went straight to Uppy for the goal. Selleck knows he isn't going to play many games in the NHL, and he's jumping on the chance to do something.
  • Tomas Kopecky - Must have liked being named team MVP, because he was on fire. Unfortunately that entails more flailing than scoring.
  • Peter Mueller - His best game since coming back, Mueller kept a constant presence around the net but never had a really good chance.

Defensemen: Just as a general note, the Panther's D is a little weaker than people claim. Dineen and Gord have rolled Campbell-Petrovic, Kuba-Weaver, Brennan-Strachan, which essentially distributes a bad/inexperienced defenseman with a veteran on the top 4, with a terrible defenseman paired with a sheltered one on the third pairing. Brennan-Strachan has been abused a lot over the last few games, though with the personnel on board right now it's a plug one hole in the dam, open another one story. And having Gudbranson back in wouldn't help too much in the defensive responsibility standpoint.

  • TJ Brennan - Breakout assist on Jug's goal, better game on defense than his previous outings, though Tampa never really sustained pressure while he was out. Drew a penalty.
  • Filip Kuba- Man is he looking forward to the summer. 4 million dollars will buy at least a few gold plated hummers.
  • Tyson Strachan - Primary assist on the Jugs goal, kinda drifted off on the first Tampa goal though Flash lifted the blame off his shoulders.
  • Mike Weaver - Today was self elected WeaverDay, Weavs looked like he wanted to put in a little game-time practice on his offense. Pinched in a lot(and got beat), battled for the puck all the way down to the goal line, big game for him.
  • Brian Campbell - Played a rather dreamy game, and not dreamy as in so good that I was fawning over him...more like he looked like he was sleepwalking. Campbell has been hot and cold all season long, and tonight the Soup was cold.
  • Alex Petrovic - I've enjoyed the late season debut, but I'd definitely send him back to San Antonio for now. Petrovic is certainly a part of the future, and when injuries inevitably crop up next season he might make stake his claim for good. Petro needs to work on defensive responsibility, though sending him back to San Antonio won't do much good unless Santos can find him a good partner to learn with(please no Nolan Yonkman). Big screwups on the Malone and Marty goals.

Goalie:

  • Jacob Markstrom - Marky is a lot like Lindback in that he doesn't get much help from his defense. Unlike Lindback, Marky gets a ton of praise from seemingly everyone who has access to air time and a tinge of illusion. Over the course of the season Markstrom hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been good. Markstrom has been adequate; a few games he stole, a few games you hang the blame on, a lot of games where the defense left him to dry. Tonight was another one of the night's where his defense wouldn't be bothered to help him out. Other than that, he put up a reasonably good performance stopping 23 of 26(.903).

More from Raw Charge on Saturday's game here. Next up: lottery, golf course, draft, free agency, training camp, hockey; in that order over the course of the next 5 months. We're back at it Monday evening with an open thread for the NHL Draft Lottery, 7 pm ET.

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