After an ill-timed misstep in Columbus, the Florida Panthers quickly righted the ship with a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Cats victory ended Detroit's four-game winning streak.
A dubious double-minor on Florida captain Willie Mitchell allowed the Red Wings to open the scoring on Tomas Tatar's pretty redirection of a Pavel Datsyuk shot at 6:47 of the first period.
The Panthers countered later in the frame when Jimmy Hayes shoveled the rebound of Vincent Trocheck's long shot over Jimmy Howard to tie the game. Dmitry Kulikov picked up the secondary helper on Hayes' sixth of the season.
Florida took the lead at 12:21 of the second period. Sean Bergenheim was left open in the slot and got just enough of Jussi Jokinen's centering passing to find the back of the cage. Brad Boyes also drew an assist with nice feed to Jokinen to start the play.
Trocheck, no stranger to playing in the Motor City, got a goal of his own 27 seconds into the third period. The rookie pivot put a sweet move on Howard to finish off a Hayes set up after Brendan Smith coughed up the puck deep in his own zone.
Rookie defender Aaron Ekblad gave the Cats a 4-1 lead at the 8:00 mark, hammering home a deflected Jonathan Huberdeau pass attempt for his second goal in as many nights. Trocheck collected the second assist to complete his big, three-point night which ended with first star honors.
Datsyuk beat Roberto Luongo 1:32 later to pull the Wings within two, and Gustav Nyquist scored with 59 ticks left on the clock, and Howard on the bench, to make things interesting, but the gritty Panthers held on to remain three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs (one game in hand) and Boston Bruins (three games in hand) in the playoff chase.
What a difference a day makes. The Cats found the finishing punch that was missing in Columbus and used it to power past a surging Detroit team. Florida continued its maddening trend of either playing up or down to the competition, but at least when they play up we get to enjoy some quality victories. Consistency is the name of the game and the Cats haven't quite found it yet. Home games against the Blue Jackets and the suddenly hot Sabres offer another chance to build a winning streak and finally slip into a wild card spot.
Bits & Baubles
- Vincent Trocheck's 1G/2A performance gave him 11 points in just 14 games this season. Trocheck played some of his youth hockey in Detroit and also suited up for two Michigan-based OHL teams, so this game had to be a very special one for him.
- Roberto Luongo returned to the Panthers' net and finished with 38 saves to post his eighth win of the season.
- Former Cat Stephen Weiss drew an assist on Tomas Tatar's game-opening goal. Nice to see Weiss healthy and contributing again.
- Tatar ended a five-game run of perfection for the Panthers' penalty kill. The unit responded by taking care of Detroit's final two opportunities.
- Aaron Ekblad's goal kept him tied with Jussi Jokinen for the team scoring lead with 13 points. Ekblad is from nearby Windsor, ON and lit the lamp with his parents at the Joe. Awww.
- Henrik Zetterberg led all skaters with a whopping 11 shots on goal. Zetterberg picked up a helper on the Nyquist goal, but props to Brother Louie for denying him one of his own.
- If you've gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City, check out Winging It In Motown. Get Up!
- I want to wrap this up with an R.I.P. to the great, classy Jean Beliveau, who passed away at the ripe age of 83. Beliveau captured the Stanley Cup ten times as player and amassed 1,219 points in his Hall of Fame career for the Canadiens. You will be missed Le Gros Bill!