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Panthers clip Red Wings 3-2 in shootout to hit wild card paydirt

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Gerard Gallant tweaks shootout lineup and it pays off big time.

Brandon Pirri gives the Panthers key bonus point in Detroit. Can you say wild card?
Brandon Pirri gives the Panthers key bonus point in Detroit. Can you say wild card?
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in ten days the Florida Panthers skated into Joe Louis Arena and took two points from the Detroit Red Wings. Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri scored in the shootout, and Roberto Luongo made 29 saves to help the Buffalo-bound Cats to a 3-2 victory. Luongo also denied Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist in the skills competition. The win moved Florida into a tie with Boston for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot. The Panthers have played two fewer games than the storied Bruins.

Detroit got off to a quick start, thanks to a tripping penalty on Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. An opportunistic Riley Sheahan converted at the 3:43 mark, putting home the rebound of a Datsyuk shot. Tomas Tatar picked up the second assist on Sheahan's seventh goal.

The resilient Panthers bounced back a few minutes later when Tomas Fleischmann beat Jimmy Howard. Collecting the assists were Sean Bergenheim, who found Flash open in front, and Dave Bolland, who picked up his first point in a Panthers uniform by holding the puck deep in the Red Wings zone.

Florida took the lead later in the frame by applying a suffocating forecheck and battling hard down low. Jonathan Huberdeau outmuscled Datsyuk in front before turning and firing the puck along the ice past Howard for his third of the season. Nick Bjugstad drew the lone helper on the goal, giving him points in four straight games.

The Red Wings evened the game before the end of the stanza with another power-play goal. Moments after Luongo absolutely robbed Tatar, Nyquist took a nice feed from Henrik Zetterberg and threw a spinning backhander off Willie Mitchell's leg and into the back of the net.

After the four-goal first period, the game settled down into a gritty defensive duel, helping Luongo and Howard keep things scoreless the rest of the way. The Panthers had a golden opportunity to go ahead in the final frame when Jakub Kindl took both an interference and cross-checking penalty, but Detroit killed off the ensuing four-minute power play.

The Cats survived overtime and the game went to the shootout. Following Luongo's foiling of Datsyuk in the first round, Trocheck scored on a beautiful move to put the Panthers ahead. Luongo easily denied Nyquist's bumble in the second round and Pirri ended it by going top-shelf on Howard. Game over man, game over.

Odds & Ends

  • The Panthers must love playing in the Motor City. This was their fourth straight win at Joe Louis Arena, a place where most teams struggle.
  • Veteran winger Tomas Fleischmann is hot all of the sudden. Flash has points in four of his last five games.
  • Jimmy Howard finished the game with 24 saves, including a dandy stop on Jimmy Hayes that was set up by a breathtaking Vincent Trocheck rush.
  • Remember when Nick Bjugstad only had 1 point in the first 10 games of the season? The sophomore pivot now has 18 in his last 17 outings.
  • Injury-prone former Panther Stephen Weiss was knocked out of the game by a hard check from Sean Bergenheim. Hopefully Weiss is OK, he's missed enough time the last few seasons.
  • The Cats' power play went a disappointing 0 for 5. Not sure what the answer is for its woes, but something's got to change here.
  • Props to coach Gerard Gallant, who finally tried something different in the shootout. Trocheck and Pirri are dangerous shooters, so throwing out a new look in the skills competition was both welcome and wise.
  • For more on the Panthers stranglehold of the Red Wings in Detroit visit Winging It in Motown.