On Thursday night at BB&T, the Florida Panthers earned a franchise-record 43rd win of the season against the New Jersey Devils with a final count of 3-2. The arena management team decided to give away toy rats for Panthers fans to throw on the ice in case of a win, but more on that later.
Jonathan Huberdeau (17, 18) scored twice for the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov (24) added a highlight reel goal off the stick of Jaromir Jagr late in the third period. It was the second of two assists on the night for Jagr (35, 36). Brian Campbell (24), Shawn Thornton (3) and Aaron Ekblad (16) also tabbed helpers in the game.
Mike Sislo (3) and Blake Pietila (1) were the only ones to solve Al Montoya, who stopped 23 shots for the win. Devante Smith-Pelly (11) and Adam Henrique (20) earned assists for the Devils. Keith Kinkaid stopped 37 shots, improving his save percentage (from .904 to .905) despite taking the loss.
The Panthers dominated the Devils in the faceoff circle, winning 62% of their chances, led by Jussi Jokinen, Nick Bjugstad, and Rocco Grimaldi, who each won over 70%. The real story could have been the Panthers penalty kill. Despite playing on their heels most of the night, they were successful on five-of-six tries, including an extended five-on-three where they yielded zero shots on goal.
Twice in the third period, after the second and third Florida goals, rats were pelted down onto the ice, despite warnings from the scoreboard. The offenders were escorted from the premises, but not before it cost the Panthers two delay-of-game penalties. This would have been a very different ReCat if the Devils had converted either of those.
Despite this, the Panthers were victorious, and thus reduced the magic number from five to three. That's the minimum required points to ensure that they cannot be passed by the current ninth place club in the conference, the Detroit Red Wings.
All About The Jersey has more on the Devils.
Check back in the morning for Todd's full recap, and tune in on Saturday when the Panthers will host the Montreal Canadiens.