It looked like the Florida Panthers were heading to a fourth shootout in their last five games until Marek Zidlicky beat Tim Thomas with three seconds remaining in overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 win. Travis Zajac drew the puck to Jaromir Jagr who fed Zidlicky for the winner. The helper moved Jagr past Mario Lemieux into sole possession of seventh place on the NHL's all-time scoring list. Zajac beat Marcel Goc on the face-off and Zidlicky's shot clipped Nick Bjugstad's stick on its way past a helpless Thomas.
Bjugstad busted a five-game scoring slump to net the Panthers only goal at the 11:54 mark of the second period. Tomas Fleischmann and Scottie Upshall collected the assists on the rookie's ninth of the season. Bjugstad finished the play off with a nice deflection of Flash's pass.
Florida got off to a good start in this one, but couldn't solve Cory Schneider while they were carrying the play. The Devils found their legs later in the first period and grabbed the lead when Michael Ryder struck for his sixteenth goal after Ryane Clowe stripped Erik Gudbranson of the puck as he was trying to come out from behind his own net.
The tie game really opened up in the final frame with each team firing thirteen shots on goal. Both clubs wanted the regulation victory, but the goalies weren't having it.
Thomas, who finished with 34 saves, made a spectacular save on Adam Henrique right before Bjugstad tied the game and also made key stops on Ryan Carter, Reid Boucher and Clowe in the third period to help get the Panthers a point.
As expected, this was a goalie battle between two clubs that have a lot of trouble scoring goals. The end result (both teams getting points, NJ getting the bonus) was the right one as the Devils were the better team after the first ten or so minutes. Despite surrendering the goal to Bjugs, the Devils outshot the Cats 11-6 in the middle frame. It's too bad the Cats couldn't quite get to the shootout because New Jersey has lost ten of them in a row. The loser point allowed the Panthers to finish the three-game trip with a respectable 1-1-1 record. Thomas is providing the Cats with really strong netminding, they just need to find a way (easy to say, hard for them to do) to generate more goals. It's difficult to win consistently when only one line is going at a time. The list of players who are due is simply too long right now.
Odds & Ends
- Jaromir Jagr's assist gave the ageless wonder a whopping 1,724 career points. Jagr could be even higher on the all-time scoring list had he not taken three years off to play in the KHL.
- The Panthers have seemingly solved their penalty-killing issues, at least for the time being. Florida has now gone six straight games without allowing a power-play goal and have killed off seventeen in a row. That's pretty impressive stuff right there.
- Unfortunately, the club's power play woes continue to drag on. The Panthers have not scored on one since Sean Bergenheim converted in the 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on December 28th. Even if Horachek earns the full-time gig, a change to the staff needs to be made to help solve this issue, it's costing the team games. Madden and Skrudland as the assistants (while done out of necessity) seems redundant to me. Someone who knows how to coach a power play needs to be hired next season.
- Cory Schneider finished the game with 29 saves. He stopped Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall on breakaways and got some help from the post on a Brian Campbell shot to raise his record to 7-9-5.
- The Killer B's line of Aleksander Barkov, Brad Boyes, and Sean Bergenheim had its seven game scoring run ended. The last time the line did not get on the scoresheet was back on December 20th, against the Winnipeg Jets.
- By assisting on the Bjugstad goal, Tomas Fleischmann ended a four-game scoring slump, while Scottie Upshall snapped a seven-game skid. It was Uppy's first point since returning from an upper-body injury. The trio needs to keep scoring to support the Killer B's line.
- The Cats are now eight points behind the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference's final wildcard spot. Florida does hold a game in hand. Too bad we let the Rags sweep us this season...
- Louie, Louie, Louie... check out In Lou We Trust for more on last night's game and all things Devils.