After strafing Steve Mason and the Philadelphia Flyers for four goals in the first 6:46 of Saturday night's 7-1 season-opening win, the Florida Panthers were looking to do more of the same in the rematch in the City of Brotherly Love.
With Mason out attending to a personal matter, the Cats got his backup Michal Neuvirth instead. The 27-year-old Czech earned first star honors, stopping all 31 Panther shots to make Brayden Schenn's early first period goal stand up in a tense,1-0 Philadelphia victory.
A high sticking double minor on Flyer forward Michael Raffl set the stage for the Cats to take command of the game early. Florida ran an aesthetically pleasing power play and came up with plenty of shots, but were foiled by Neuvirth.
Forty seconds after completing the kill, the Flyers struck for the game's only goal.
After working a quick give and go with Sean Couturier, Sam Gagner got free of Dave Bolland and threw a shot on net. Vincent Trocheck failed to pick up Schenn, who easily put the rebound past Roberto Luongo for his second of the young season.
After the goal, the tilt settled into a physical, intense, playoff-type battle, with a high degree of chippiness and plenty of roughing minors.
Luongo shined in the middle frame as the Flyers outshot the Panthers by a 14-7 margin. His best sequence came when he denied an in the clear Raffl and subsequent rebound attempts by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
The third period was all Florida. The Panthers threw 14 shots at Neuvirth, but couldn't find the back of the net to send the game to overtime.
Neuvirth came up with a big stop on a Alex Petrovic blast and fell back to stop Brandon Pirri from stuffing the loose puck home with just over six minutes remaining.
The desperate Panthers came close again a few times, but Neuvirth would simply not yield, capping his night with a big glove save on Brandon Pirri with twelve seconds left and the Cats net empty.
While it was disappointing to see the Cats go from seven goals to none, the opportunities were definitely there. After failing to score early, the Panthers seemed to get frustrated and let Neuvirth get in their heads. In addition to dealing with an "on" goalie, there were too many missed nets and a few times when players wound up for big shots when a wrist shot was the much better option. The good news is for the second straight game Luongo, who finishedwith 32 stops, and his mates held the opposition to a single goal. That kind of effort will get the Cats their fair share of victories as they continue through the schedule, starting with tonight's tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Odds & Ends
- Brandon Pirri and Nick Bjugstad led the Panthers with four shots on goal each. Both players got good looks, but couldn't dent the twine. Pirri should've have a few more, but he missed the net and seemed to struggle with his shot selection.
- The Cats top line took too long to get going last night. Despite finishing with a combined six shots, the trio of Barkov, Jagr and Huberdeau wasn't that noticeable during the first forty minutes. They need to get of the gate faster tonight against Carolina.
- Goal scorer Brayden Schenn finished with four shots and five hits. He was involved all night long.
- Connor Brickley continued to show the energy that won him a spot in the lineup. Brickely collected a couple roughing minors and was one of three Panthers to register three hits.
- After an interesting two early games, the Cats and Flyers won't meet again to decide the season-series until March 12, in Sunrise.
- Check out the other side of last night's game at Broad Street Hockey.