The Florida Panthers weren't at their best, but two goals from Jaromir Jagr and another stingy performance from backup goaltander Al Montoya carried the Cats to a 2-1 victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild. The red-hot Panthers won their ninth straight game and wrapped up the holiday homestand with a perfect 6-0 record.
Jagr got the Cats off to great start, scoring his 12th of the season just 27 seconds into the game. Dmitry Kulikov fed the 43-year-old down low after Jonathan Huberdeau was able to hold the puck in the zone and the living legend sent a backhand by Devan Dubnyk.
Florida had three power-play chances in the period, but came up empty and had to be content with a one-goal after the opening twenty minutes.
The Wild struck back early in the second period to even the game. After Montoya made a stop on Ryan Suter's blast, Mikko Koivu collected the puck and sent it to Jason Zucker in front, and he was able to push his own rebound past the Cats' keeper to turn on the red light.
Montoya came up huge during the remainder of the frame to keep the score tied, as the Wild finished the middle stanza with a whopping 18 shots on goal, but only had the Zucker marker showing on the scoreboard.
Jagr delivered the game-winner 8:52 into the final frame with assists going to Brandon Pirri and Kulikov, who started a breakout after Montoya made another save. After Pirri carried the puck through the neutral zone, he sent Jagr in with a nice entry pass and the living legend cut to the middle before firing a wrist shot by Dubnyk.
Montoya made a total of 12 stops in the third period, and finished the game with 39, to make the precarious lead stand up, giving the Panthers their 23rd win of the season and a three-point cushion on the Montreal Canadiens for Atlantic Division bragging rights.
The Cats will kick off a six-game road trip in Buffalo on Tuesday before heading to Canada for the next four games and finishing the arduous trek in Tampa Bay.
Odds & Ends
- Jaromir Jagr's brace pulled him within six goals of Brett Hull for third all-time in NHL history. Jagr leads the club with 13 goals and 28 points.
- Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup after missing 15 games with migraine issues. The big center logged 11:08 TOI, dished out one hit and went 3-of-9 in the faceoff dot.
- Devan Dubnyk fell to 16-11-3 on the season. The Wild keeper turned aside 27 shots in a solid road performance.
- Al Montoya continues to give Florida high-quality netminding when Roberto Luongo needs a break. Montoya is now 6-1-1 with a ridiculous 1.69 GAA and a save percentage of .936.
- The Cats' power play went a disappointing 0-for-5 on the night, but the PK made up for it, going a perfect 4-for-4.
- The two assists gave defenseman Dmitry Kulikov his first multi-point game of 2015-16. Kulikov now has 8 points (1G/7A) on the season.
- Need the advanced stats breakdown? war-on-ice has it for you right here.
- Hockey Wilderness has the other side of the Panthers' latest victory. Tread lightly...
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)