The Florida Panthers wrapped up the 2014-15 season with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Fan Appreciation night at the BB&T Center. The club finished with a 38-29-15 record and 91 points, a huge 25-point improvement over last year's total. The 91-points were the fifth highest total in franchise history.
Al Montoya, seeing his first action since the infamous "goalie gate" game on March 3, made 31 saves to post the win and Jaromir Jagr scored the deciding goal and added an assist in his first game against his former team after the February trade that brought him to the Panthers.
After a scoreless first period that saw Florida out-shoot New Jersey by an 11-5 count, the Devils opened the scoring 1:50 into the middle stanza when Jordin Tootoo fired the puck by Montoya to complete a give-and-go with teammate Travis Zajac. Eric Gelinas picked up the second assist on the pretty play.
Dave Bolland, who registered game-high five shots on goal over the first forty minutes, would even the contest midway through the period with his sixth goal of the season. Bolland got open in front to cap off a nice passing play involving line-mates Brad Boyes and Jussi Jokinen with an easy put away.
The Panthers took their first lead at 7:59 of the final frame when Jonathan Huberdeau punched a rebound of Jagr's shot from the right circle by goaltender Cory Schneider. Aleksander Barkov drew the secondary helper on Huberdeau's fifteeeth goal, which established a new career-high for the third-year winger.
A sequence of penalties at the 10:28 mark would set the stage for the final two tallies of the game. For the Devils, Adam Henrique was sent to the box for tripping Scottie Upshall while former Cat Steve Bernier received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing Steven Kampfer. Alex Petrovic took a minor and ten-minute misconduct for roughing up Bernier.
New Jersey tied the tilt 33-seconds later with the teams skating 4-on-4. Mike Cammalleri found defenseman Damon Severson with a long cross ice pass and the defenseman beat Montoya for his fifth goal.
After Petrovic's minor expired, the Cats took to the power play where the 43-year-old Jagr would come up with the game-winner. Aaron Ekblad sent the puck over to partner Dmitry Kulikov, who blasted away at the Devils' goaler. Jagr was there to take the puck off Schneider's pad and he slid it home for seventeenth goal, ending the Panthers season on a positive note.
Odds & Ends
- Jaromir Jagr produced a little more history last night. His assist put him all alone in sixth place all-time with 1,080, snapping a brief tie with Devils co-coach Adam Oates. The power-play goal, his 204th, moved him into a fourteenth place tie all-time with some guy named Wayne Gretzky. Jagr racked up 18 points (6G/12A) in 20 games with the Cats.
- The win and start were Al Montoya's first since a 4-3 decision over Tampa Bay on March 1. Montoya finished the season with a 6-7-2 record and 3.01 GAA.
- Jonathan Huberdeau ended the campaign with a team-leading 54 points on 15 goals and 39 assists, all career bests. Huberdeau finished the season with 11 points (4G/7A) in the last 10 games. A star is born?
- Cory Schneider made 24 stops in another solid start for the Devils, who finished the season losing 10 of their last 11 games. Schneider had a fine season, but was victim of lack of goal support. Something Panther fans can seriously relate to.
- Spark plug center Derek MacKenzie went 11-of-15 in the face-off dot and registered one hit.
- Andy Greene, Adam Henrique and Tuomo Ruutu each had four shots on goal for the Devils,
- The win was Florida's first this season against New Jersey. The Devils took the Panthers' home opener at the BB&T Center (5-1) and beat the Panthers at the Prudential Center (3-1). The Cats drew 11,419 to the opening night tilt and 12,236 last night. South Florida, the on-ice product is there and the off-ice shenanigans are looking like a thing of the past, we need to do better next season.
- Journey down to Dante's first circle, where you will find In Lou We Trust trying to make sense of the Devils' current state, for the other side of the season finale.