They didn't get it done in regulation, but they got it done and that's all that matters for now. Brandon Pirri bagged the game-winner in the shootout and Roberto Luongo finished with 26 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 win over the visiting Boston Bruins. The Cats shaved another point off the Bruins lead in the wild card chase to trail by four points with ten games left in the regular season. The teams will meet two more times before it's all said and done.
The Panthers overcame one of their patented slow starts to post the only goal of the first period. Jimmy Hayes, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against Detroit, notched his eighteenth of the season when he knocked a centering pass from Dave Bolland past Tuukka Rask at the 14:41 mark. Jussi Jokinen collected the secondary helper, giving him a team-leading thirty-three assists.
Boston evened the contest early in the second period with Bolland in the box for high-sticking Chris Kelly. Patrice Bergeron got the power-play goal, capping off the pretty passing of Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton right before the penalty expired.
The teams combined for fourteen shots in third period (Bruins 8, Cats 6), but the goaltenders would not crack, giving both teams a much-needed point. Rask absolutely robbed Bolland from in close early and Luongo made a nifty poke check on David Pastrnak's bid late in the frame. Boston's Bettman point kept them one ahead of the surging Ottawa Senators, who skated to a 5-3 win over Toronto.
After overtime failed to produce a victor, Pirri, who just missed wide in the dying seconds of the extra session, beat Rask five-hole in the second round for the only goal of the skills competition. Luongo stopped Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Spooner to get the Panthers the coveted bonus point.
Even if the Cats ultimately fall short in their bid for the a playoff berth, how nice was it to see the club come up aces in a game of this magnitude with a big crowd of 17, 044 on hand at the BB&T Center?
Odds & Ends
- The huge win snapped Florida nine-game losing streak against the Bruins. The last time the Cats beat Boston was March 15, 2012.
- Jimmy Hayes' game-opening tally ended a fourteen-game drought. Hayes has now scored four goals in five games after being a healthy scratch.
- Patrice Bergeron and Brian Campbell were the only players to finish with four shots on goal during the tilt.
- Derek MacKenzie dished out a game-high eight hits and won 8-of-11 draws.
- Jonathan Huberdeau was the Panthers' other shooter, he missed, in the skills competition. Huberdeau finished the game with three shots in 20:47 TOI.
- Shawn Thornton suited up for the 600th game of his NHL career. Nice that it happened against Boston, his former team.
- Tuukka Rask turned aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced during the first sixty-five minutes of action.
- In a bit of a scheduling twist, both teams will do battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning next. The B's are in Tampa today while the Cats will face the Bolts on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena to kick off a five-game road trip.
- Close your eyes and slip away to Stanley Cup of Chowder for the other side of Florida's huge win.