All we've asked for was a big win at home. Just one, and see where it may go.
The Panthers finally secured that Big Win before an announced crowd of 18,110 Sunday at BankAtlantic Center. As expected, there was a lot of black & gold in the crowd, but the victorious colors for the evening were navy and powder blue.
Yes: the Cats notched their first-ever win in what's been conservatively described as a forelorn lovechild of Pittsburgh and St. Louis' "third jerseys". I still see Black Bears but whatever. Love it or hate it, there's no curse here.
Anyway, it was The Tomas Vokoun Experience. Everything which could be asked of your Money Goalie and more were delivered; it's not like he had gobs of assistance at clearing the zone, either: 48 shots made their way to the Czech Republic's Olympic starter.
An example of what he faced from only three of the defending Stanley Cup Champion forwards: Ruslan Fedotenko - 6 SOG. Evgeny Malkin - 8 SOG. Sidney Crosby - 9 SOG.
Oh, yeah: the three were a combined minus-6 en route to their fifth loss in a row. Must suck. Not to fear, Bylsma Faithful: as Hooks Orpik says at PensBurgh, Crosby's kids ain't cooked yet.
Florida dumped not only a streak of three extra-frame losses against the Pens - each ending in identical 3-2 scores - this year, but performed all of their offensive work after Pittsburgh had taken advantage of typical Cats sloppiness early in the first period, after a two-goal lead had been firmly established by the visitors. The second marker in particular was downright wicked: a classic highlight-reel send-the-tender-back-to-Rochester Crosby wrister. Nothing looked too positive for the home team. At all.
The entire ice surface turned on a dime, though, as Jordan Leopold - off a Nathan Horton pass - closed the first frame with a slap shot which evoked memories of Kevin Dineen-vs-Andy Moog, 1990 Adams Division semis, game six overtime. It's a kewl scene which I'd love to share but the NHL hasn't released it for distribution yet (the Crosby goal as well). Try this for what it's worth.
Remember all those nights when Florida peters out in the third? This was the exception.
Leo's work set the stage for a gargantuan multi-zone effort by the Panthers, and a seriously unexpected dropoff in something by the Pens, as Rostislav Olesz, Steven Reinprecht, and Radek Dvorak (hat trick) each found the back of Marc-Andre Fleury's net; Horton and Gregory Campbell ended the night with two assists apiece.
All things being equal (and typically they aren't), Florida put on a tremendous show for the fans, and themselves. The question remains: was it Panther superiority, or a blood-in-the-water mentality? A great night nonetheless.
On an unrelated note: my thanks to everyone who responded personally to me regarding this at Puck Daddy. Lemons, indeed!
Next up: Toronto on Tuesday.