Tim Thomas was expected to return to action last night, but instead, coach Peter Horachek decided to give him a little more time off and started Scott Clemmensen for the third-straight time. The move paid off in spades as Clemmensen made 21 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to an exciting 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in front of a sellout crowd at the BB&T Center.
Much-maligned defenseman Dmitry Kulikov opened the scoring with his second of the season at the 6:10 mark of the first period. Tomas Fleischmann set up the goal with a sweet feed to collect his team-leading 15th assist.
Montreal, winners of two straight road games, struck back early in the second period when Brandon Prust deposited the puck past an out of position Clemmensen to tie the game.
The Panthers regained the lead just under two minutes later when Brian Campbell 's shot struck goaltender Peter Budaj, went up in the air and bounced in off a combination of Budaj's back and defenseman Alexei Emelin's stick.
Later in period, rookie Aleksander Barkov tipped in Tom Gilbert's shot to make 3-1 Cats. Brad Boyes picked up the secondary assist. Gilbert and Boyes also drew the helpers on Campbell's goal.
Clemmensen shut the door in the third, stopping all ten Canadiens' shots, and Sean Bergenheim took a pass from Campbell to complete the scoring, with his eighth goal, into an empty Montreal cage with seventeens seconds remaining. The marker was Bergy's fourth in the last three games.
The much-needed win broke the Cats three-game losing streak and was the first of this five-game homestand. The Panthers need similar results against the Rangers on Tuesday and the Predators on Saturday.
Odds & Ends
- The Panthers PK came through by going a perfect 3 for 3. On the flip side, the power play failed to click on its three chances. Luckily, the Cats scored enough at even-strength to pick up the two points.
- The win raised Scott Clemmensen's record to 5-4-1 on the season. That Clemmer would sport a record over .500 would have been almost unthinkable a few weeks ago.
- Montreal defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin had games to forget. Markov finished a horrid -4, while Emelin went -3 and helped knock in Campbell's game-winner.
- In an odd occurrence, the Cats actually got some help from the zebras last night. Montreal had not one, but two goals waved off. In the first period, Brian Gionta fed Rene Bourque for an apparent goal, only to have the refs call it off, saying Gionta touched the puck with a high stick at the blue line. Didn't look like it, but maybe. In the third, Daniel Briere put a loose puck past Clemmer, but Alex Galchenyuk was said to have prevented the Panthers keeper from making a play. Galchenyuk did bump Clemmensen, but he was definitely pushed into him by Marcel Goc. That one looked like a clear break for the Panthers. Oh well, we'll take them both. We've had enough calls go the other way this season (and many others).
- Hats off to Tomas Kopecky. The veteran forward suited up for his 500th NHL game last night.
- Great to see an announced crowd of almost 20K at the BB&T Center. Too bad so many of them were Habs fans. That said, the Panthers playing well and winning in front of a large number of fans is always good, and something that needs to happen more often.
- Tomas Fleischmann's assist made him the first Panther to hit the 20-point mark this season. While Flash continues to be the club's leading scorer, the Cats need more from him, especially when it comes to lighting the lamp. Fleischmann's 5 goals and two multi-point games this season are disappointing numbers.
- After a slow start, the Panthers have now posted six wins against their new Atlantic Division rivals. They are still looking for victories against Boston, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay.
- Ole, Ole, Ole! Check out Eyes On The Prize for a different perspective on last night's action.