With their much-improved defense and Roberto Luongo back in the fold, there doesn't look to be too much difference between the Florida Panthers and the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, one difference that remains is Florida still lacks the finisher(s) needed to pull out tight games like this, a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of the Boston Bruins, on even a semi-regular basis. Sure, the Cats played another rock-solid road game and extended their points streak to seven games, but three of those games are tough losses in extra time that saw possible points slip through their wanting fingers.
After an evenly played first period, the Cats opened the scoring on Jussi Jokinen's first as a Panther at 4:04 of the second. Jokinen beat Tuukka Rask with a one-timer to cap off the crisp passing work of Brad Boyes and Aaron Ekblad. The goal gave the veteran Finn points in five-straight games.
The Bruins tied things up just over three minutes later when Reilly Smith out-worked Derek MacKenzie on the boards. Brad Marchand grabbed the loose puck and fed Patrice Bergeron, who quickly spun and fired the puck past a helpless Brother Louie. Tomas Fleischmann tried to help MacKenzie out along the wall, but his swooping attempt at knocking the biscuit free to safety failed.
Both teams had some good chances to take the lead in the third but Rask and Luongo were up to the task. The Panthers also caught a post or two in the final frame as their offensive frustration continued.
In overtime, the Bruins took an ultra-aggressive approach that put the Cats on their heels from the get go. The Panthers did have a couple chances to counter but Rocco Grimaldi missed with a backhander and a superb effort from fellow rookie Ekblad also sailed wide of the Boston cage.
After Boyes failed to get the puck deep enough for the Panthers to change, Dougie Hamilton found a open Marchand, who blew past Dylan Olsen and went top shelf on Luongo. Game over, man. Game over.
The Panthers head to Philadelphia next, for a rematch with the revenge-minded Flyers, where another one-goal outcome is likely in the cards.
Odds & Ends
- In a strange twist of fate, the Panthers went the whole game without having a penalty called against them. Huh??? A hooking minor by Bruins' defender Adam McQuaid was the game's one and only infraction. What a welcome change.
- Shots were tough to come by in this one. Boston finished with 25, while the Cats mustered just 19 at Tuukka Rask.
- Rocco Grimaldi's fine effort in his second career game earned him a look from coach Gerard Gallant during the extra session. Rocco was on the ice for 13:39 after playing just over six minutes in his debut.
- Aaron Ekblad had a strong game with a team-leading three shots on goal, two hits and an assist. His jaw-dropping hustle play almost led to an overtime winner but his backhander wasn't really that close, easy people. Ten games into his rookie season and Ekblad is already starting to look like the club's best defenseman.
- The win was the Bruins ninth straight over the Panthers. The Cats need to find a way to best their Atlantic Division rival. They have until March to figure things out.
- Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand combined for 11 of the B's 25 shots. Those two are danger you, danger me, danger us, us.
- Scottie Upshall suited up for 500th NHL game. Maybe that's why the refs didn't send him to the box...
- Five of the Panthers' last six games have ended in a 2-1 score. Every game except the 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils has been decided by a single goal.
- Hungry? Toss a Stanley Cup of Chowder down your gullet to fill up on more Cats-B's.