Nick Bjugstad continued to come of age during the Florida Panthers arduous trek through California. The sophomore pivot scored two more goals, giving him 7 points in 3 games on the trip, and delivered the shootout winner as the Cats squeaked by the San Jose Sharks 3-2.
Roberto Luongo made 28 saves, including a dandy third period penalty shot stop on Patrick Marleau, to post his sixth win of the season.
Bjugstad opened the scoring with a nifty redirection goal just 24 seconds into the game. Dmitry Kulikov, just back in the lineup after a four-game absence, took the initial shot and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up the second assist on the play.
In the second period, the Sharks cashed in on Kulikov's cross checking minor to tie the game. Logan Couture got the goal with the assists going to Joe Pavelski and Marleau.
Bjugstad struck again later in the frame with Florida on a power play. Bjugs absolutely hammered a pass from Erik Gudbranson past Antti Niemi for sixth goal of the season. Huberdeau picked up his second helper of the night.
Luongo's big blocker stop on Marleau came with 6:53 remaining in the third, after Brian Campbell slashed him on a breakaway. The Cats' netminder also made a fine stop on Couture with a 1:00 left in overtime.
Marleau extracted revenge on Brother Louie by knocking in Joe Thornton's centering pass with 33.1 seconds left on the clock to send the game to extra time
The Panthers collected the bonus point when Bjugstad whipped the game-winner past Niemi in the third round of the shootout after Jussi Jokinen and Couture scored in the second round, and Brent Burns missed his third-round attempt.
After an uneven performance Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Luongo and the Panthers bounced back with a very solid road win, continuing their recent mastery of the Sharks in the process. Florida still has games in hand on most of the Eastern Conference, so now's not the time for a losing streak and winning their first in the shootout this season prevented that After going ten games without a goal, Bjugstad is on fire, with six in his last seven games. I think all of us would have been pretty happy to see the Cats return home from this trip with four points. They have already hit that number and now have a chance to exceed expectations Saturday night in Nashville. Bring on the Predators!
Odds & Ends
- Jonathan Huberdeau's two assists pushed his scoring streak to three games. It's starting to look like he's finally found the form that got him the Calder Trophy in his rookie season.
- Aleksander Barkov returned to the lineup after missing the Kings tilt and finished with two shots on goal and -1 rating in 17:24 TOI. Linemate Rocco Grimaldi got another game due to Scottie Upshall's lower-body injury.
- Joe Thornton's helper on the game-tying goal extended his point streak to eight games.
- Antti Niemi finished with game with 26 stops on 28 Panther shots.
- The Cats continue to pick up points on the road, raising their record away from the BB&T to a very respectable 4-2-4.
- Tomas Fleischmann continues to struggle. The veteran winger failed to register a shot on a goal and posted a -1 rating. It's going to be hard for him to stay in the lineup when the Panthers return to full health.
- San Jose forward Tommy Wingels finished with a game-high six hits and had a good shorthanded chance on Roberto Luongo in the first period.
- Cage up and hit Fear the Fin and Battle of California for more on last night's Panther victory.