The Florida Panthers got both of the things they needed last night, a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings and an Ottawa win in regulation time over Boston, to pull themselves back within five points of the Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with just eleven games left on the slate. The B's will drop by the BB&T Center Saturday night in what is essentially a must win for the Cats.
The Panthers dominated most of the first period, out-shooting the visitors by a 14-8 count, but the scoring woes that plagued them against the Rangers and Canadiens continued. Brad Boyes' breakaway chance, easily handled by Detroit starter Petr Mrazek, was the Cats' best opportunity during the opening frame.
Florida finally broke through midway through the second period when Jaromir Jagr finished off a nice rush with the 718th goal of his illustrious career. The maker snapped a tie with Phil Esposito and put Jagr all alone in fifth place on the NHL's all-time goals list. Jonathan Huberdeau found the 43-year-old open in the high slot and he beat Mrazek easily. Aleksander Barkov picked up the secondary helper on the grizzled vet's thirteenth of the season.
Jagr was involved in the play that put that Cats up by two a few minutes later. Aaron Ekblad took a big blast at Mrazek that the goalie couldn't get a handle on. A diving number 68 flicked the puck towards the open cage and it looked like he had his second of the night, but the goal went instead to red-hot Brandon Pirri, who swooped in and swatted the biscuit while it was in the air into the back of the net.
The Red Wings had their chances to dent Roberto Luongo, who returned after missing six games, during the frame, but Henrik Zetterberg hit the cross bar early and the post late while Joakim Andersson caught iron right before Pirri bagged his seventeenth.
The Panthers went up by three at the 6:50 mark of the third period. After Tomas Kopecky and Justin Abdelkader hit the ice while battling, Scottie Upshall sped by and claimed the loose puck. Upshall broke in on Mrazek and beat the Detroit keeper top shelf with a beauty for his eighth for the season, unassisted.
The Red Wings broke up Luongo's shutout bid with 9:53 left in the tilt. Ekblad looked like a total rookie in turning the puck over behind the net to Tomas Tatar, who quickly fed Erik Cole for the goal. Riley Sheahan picked up the secondary assist for harrying Eggs and getting him to crack.
Luongo, who finished with 26 saves, shut the door the rest of the way and the Cats picked up a much-needed, and much-deserved win, giving the club 78 points on the season.
Parts & Accessories
- Brandon Pirri has now scored in four games in a row and has fourteen goals in his last nineteen outings. Just... wow!
- The Panthers raised their record to 16-8-8 on the season when scoring the game's first goal.
- Petr Mrazek finished the game with 29 stops and saw his record drop to 14-6-1.
- Derek MacKenzie dished out a season-high ten hits and won eight of the ten draws he took.
- The Cats power play sputtered again, going 0-for-3 on the night.
- With Roberto Luongo back, Sam Brittain was reassigned to the San Antonio Rampage to back up Michael Houser. It's nice that Brittain got some practice time in with the big boys, but he needs to be playing.
- Erik Cole's goal was his twentieth of the season. That's the sixth time in his career he has reached the 20-goal plateau.
- Winging It In Motown has the other side of last night's result. The funk soul brother says check it now.