Don't think it would be out of line to have glanced at the rosters before this one began and safely predicted a Florida loss on the order of four goals or better (worse?) being an inevitable outcome.
Two clubs headed in wildly different directions, at least in the short-term: Carolina completed solidifying their already formidable lineup for a deep playoff run with the additions of Florida's Cory Stillman and Bryan Allen, while the Panthers - still smoldering after Monday's Deadline action - are firmly setting their sights on the Entry Draft in June; in essence playing out the schedule amid a gargantuan retooling.
Stiller indeed proved you can go home again, looking mighy comfortable in his old uniform while netting the opening goal and adding an assist soon after. Eric Staal played a role in both, a reminder of days gone by and quite likely many more to come, if #61 re-signs in July.
It's not even the case that Florida was playing poorly...they weren't. The experience gap between the two teams appeared simply too much to overcome.
A 2-0 deficit after the first, coupled with an 8-7 CAR lead in shots on goal, easily should have spelled certain doom for the Cats 40 minutes up the road. Peter DeBoer had other ideas; though we'll never know what was said prior to the second frame, it's entirely obvious he touched a collective nerve in the visitors' dressing room.
The Panthers came out absolutely flying, spending a crazy majority of the final two periods in CAR's zone, firing 35 shots on goaltender Cam Ward. Only Stephen Weiss was able to break through with a goal early in the second (assists to David Booth and Jason Garrison, but Niclas Bergfors was valuable in creating havoc to the left of the net).
Michal Repik - officially credited with 4 shots - missed on a bundle of opportunities, but make no mistake: this was his game. The speed, creativity, and confidence level were so off the charts that if the kid continues to replicate that effort down the stretch, he'll be a welcome lock for the Big Club in September. This was by leaps and bounds his finest performance as a Panther; he was (a very positive) unrecognizable when compared with his previous 35 games in a FLA uni.
From top to bottom there were no slackers in DeBoer's lineup. Even Hugh Jessiman made an enormous impression by desolidifying Troy Bodie (the video's a winner). Scott Clemmensen finished with 20 saves. Sergei Samsonov - still showing the flexibility that made him a top-ten pick 13 years ago - had 2 SOG but was a consistent target for the Canes' defense; they do know the guy. Allen finished with no shots and an even rating.
More from Canes Country here. Next up: Habs visit Sunrise Thursday; Live Game Thread at 6:30.