Number one overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad scored his first NHL goal to help the injury-riddled Florida Panthers get past the Philadelphia Flyers last night at the BB&T Center.
The 2-1 victory gave the Cats (4-2-3) their first winning streak of the young season. The team has now picked up at least a point in their last six games.
Roberto Luongo stoned the Flyers, turning aside 36 of 37 shots for his fourth win of the campaign. Old nemesis Vincent Lecavalier broke Luongo's shutout bid late, scoring with 7.4 seconds remaining in the game with the Philadelphia net empty at the other end.
Captain Willie Mitchell opened the scoring at 9:07 of the first period with his first as Panther. Mitchell blasted home a carom pass off the boards from Jussi Jokinen. The helper was the fifth in the last four games for the hot Jokinen. Brad Boyes picked up the second assist on the goal.
Ekblad's milestone goal was a power-play bomb that screamed by a screened Steve Mason at the 15:38 mark of the third period, with Flyer defenseman Mark Streit off for tripping. Brian Campbell and Jimmy Hayes collected the helpers. It was Hayes' first point of the season.
The call on Streit was the only Philadelphia penalty in the final frame. The Panthers had to kill off three calls, including 32 seconds of 5-on-3 time, during the third, in what is starting to seem like a nightly occurrence of overcoming two opponents; the other team and the crew in the striped shirts.
Among Luongo's best saves were a redirection stop on Michael Raffl in the first and one with the blocker on Claude Giroux in the second. The Cats' netminder denied the dangerous Giroux four other times during the game and robbed Raffl again in the third.
Over the last two weeks, the Panthers have found a way to accumulate points without putting in much of the way of goals. That was the case again last night, as this time it was the defense that came through with the scoring. I can't be too critical of the offense though, the team was missing four forwards due to injury and another was out with the Fluberdeau. Along with the Colorado game, this was the most exciting tilt of the season. An evenly, and well-played, affair until the refs tilted the ice by giving the Flyers three-straight power plays in the third. This week, the Cats go back on the road, with games in Boston and Philadelphia, where they have yet to be beaten in regulation time this season.
Odds & Ends
- Three young Cats saw their first action of the season with big club last night. Rocco Grimaldi made his NHL debut and finished with one shot on goal in 6:11 TOI. Vincent Trocheck also had one shot on goal in 6:52 TOI. Colby Robak, who was pressed into forward duty, played a little bit less (5:35), but lead the trio with two shots.
- Flyers goalie Steve Mason had a good game, he came up with 26 stops, but saw his record slip to 0-4-1.
- Mitchell's goal was his first since January 20, 2014, when he still a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The veteran defender finished the game with 3 hits and two blocked shots.
- Once again, Nick Bjugstad led the Panthers with shots(4), but that first goal remains elusive. The team needs him to get off the schneid, pronto.
- Scottie Upshall was called for two minors again. The veteran forward has been very effective, but needs to find a way to tone it down a hair. The zebras have it out for him right now, and he needs to adjust accordingly.
- The Cats killed off all six Flyer man-advantages and went 1 for 4 on the power play. Go special teams!
- For the second game in a row, the Panthers pinned another loss on a team coming in from Tampa Bay. Thank you Lightning.
- As much as I hate to bring this up, another disappointing crowd (9,774) at the BB&T. Saturday night, the Flyers, and less than 10K in the building? Come on South Florida hockey fans, you can do better than that.
- Declare your independence by strolling over to Broad Street Hockey for more Panthers-Flyers.