Believe me when I say it's been a while. While other teams can safely coast into a mundane three-game winning streak at ease; for whatever reason the Florida Panthers find that kind of success hard to come by. And never, and I mean never, should one expect the Panthers to rack up two wins on back-to-back day games--on the road. But it most certainly couldn't have come at a better time.
With the Capitals losing earlier to the Rangers, Florida's hard work is showing off with a now four point lead in the division entering in a homestand that will put them in their own beds for nearly a week and a half. Again I must revisit the loss to Washington and remind everyone that the season could have ended there, but with three impressive wins in the games since perhaps the tables have turned for the Panthers. Tonight the Cats scored 4 unanswered goals against the New York Islanders in a high energy game unusual for the tail end of a back to back set. The Panthers roared back from being down in a familiar 1-0 hole and closed out the game without ever looking back. This victory is a just another huge upswing for team morale during an absolutely critical stretch of games.
-Frans Nielsen(10) 3:35 assists to P.A. Parenteau and Andrew MacDonald
-Tyson Strachan(1st career) 14:57 assist to Marcel Goc
-Tomas Fleischmann(18) 4:17 assists to Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss
-Kris Versteeg(22) PPG 11:41 assists to Fleischmann and Brian Campbell
-Jack Skille(3) 18:33 assist to Shawn Matthias
- Another early goal to spot the opponent a one goal lead. Seriously, this is becoming a concerning trend.
- Jack Skille would return to the lineup after prolonging his shoulder injury in Chicago, Skille isn't going to help the offense, but he will help just about everything else, including the forechecking and backchecking the team has been lacking of late.
- For the record, I know John Tavares has played pretty well this season, but I still think Matt Duchene is better. Duchene has that highly skilled arsenal, Tavares is more of a power forward. I'd be happy with either, since they are playing different styles with their respective teams.
- We talk a lot about how important winning faceoffs are, but you don't always see the tangible results from winning one cleanly. Goc did just that, sent it right to Strachan who sent a laser behind Nabokov in a sequence that probably took 2 seconds. Yeah, faceoffs are important.
- The Panthers kept Evgeni Nabokov busy in the first period despite only putting 9 shots on net, but you could say the same about the Islanders with the same shot count. Two teams with plenty of offensive weapons should have an open season kind of game, and it's certainly entertaining after a slow game in New Jersey.
- Flash's goal has got to be a candidate for the prettiest Panthers goal of the year, not for the perfect pass but because I was convinced Weiss was just going to dump the puck. Instead Weiss dropped it to Versteeg who sent an amazing pass to streaking Fleischmann who potted it in an empty net. Beautiful.
- Did I mention how awesome it is to have Skille back? Seriously, I've seen him drive to the net more in two periods than I saw the rest of the team over the stretch of Jack's absence.
- Good for Tomas Kopecky screening Nabokov on the powerplay leading to the Versteeg goal, I wish TomKop would do it more often. Perhaps with Skille back in the lineup Kopecky won't have to fill the energy role and return to his trailer/big body role we saw earlier in the season.
- Oh Skille, a goal on your return to the Panthers. How sweet it is. Another goal off the faceoff, this time a slightly less clean, but still effective draw from Matthias.
- Energy in a tail end of a back to back game? Blasphemy!
- Four goals through two periods? Blasphemy!
- The third period would be tilted in the Islander's favor, but Jose Theodore and the defense would keep the puck out of the net as New York surged back into the game.
- Colby Robak made his first ever NHL appearance with Florida, he wasn't exactly noticeable but that's a good thing for a first game. He finished a +2 with 13:24 of TOI
Chris' First Star: Plenty of choices, Skille, Versteeg, but I'll go with Theodore for having a great game coming back from injury, something I didn't see when he faced the Avalanche.
Chris' Worst Star: Other than running into a linesman, Matt Bradley was invisible. He didn't do anything bad, he just didn't do anything at all.
Up Next: Florida returns home for a 4 game homestand. First target; a flopping Ottawa Senators team the Cats haven't defeated for ages. 7:30 on Wednesday.