The Florida Panthers continue to scuffle, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche and backup netminder Calvin Pickard. The Cats' middling play, they are 4-4-2 in their last ten, allowed the surging Tampa Bay Lightning, who beat the Ottawa Senators last night, to equal Florida's 80 points and forge an all Sunshine State tie at the top of the Atlantic Division standings. Tampa Bay currently holds two tiebreakers on the Panthers, so first place now belongs to the Bolts.
Colorado opened the scoring early, with captain Gabriel Landeskog beating Roberto Luongo short side at 5:45 after splitting Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson on his way to the net. Tyson Barrie and Pickard drew the assists on the power-play goal.
Gudbranson redeemed himself for his part in the Landeskog goal by scoirng just under four minutes later. Aleksander Barkov found the big defenseman creeping in from the point and Gudbranson hammered in his second of the season. Ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr picked up the secondary assist to tie "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe for third all-time in points at 1,850. Watch it, Mark Messier, Jagr is coming for you, too.
The Avalanche regained the lead at 13:50 courtesy of a Jussi Jokinen turnover. Jokinen's attempt to clear bounced off Landeskog and right to Barrie, who quickly fed a wide-open Mikkel Boedker for his first goal in a Colorado uniform.
Matt Duchene got loose from Brian Campbell and skated through a diving Nick Bjugstad to beat Luongo at the 4:55 mark of the second period to extend Colorado's advantage to two.
Campbell scored a beauty at 12:52 after taking a sharp cross-ice pass from Jokinen to complete a nice Panthers' rush up ice. Reilly Smith was also credited with an assist on the play.
The final frame belonged to Pickard, who stopped all 24, that's right, 24 shots he saw over the twenty-minute span. The 23-year-old's finest came with Bjugstad, Logan Shaw and Garrett Wilson combining on some dangerous opportunities right on the door step.
Luongo only faced 8 shots, but kept his team within striking distance with an ungodly glove save on John Mitchell and a fine denial of Nathan MacKinnon's penalty shot bid.
The Panthers will finish the road trip on Saturday in Glendale against the slumping Arizona Coyotes. It will be Florida's final game of the regular season playing a Western Conference.
Peaks & Valleys
- Once again, Las Panteras had to roll with a depleted lineup. New acquisitions Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler are still clearing up visa issues, so Garrett Wilson subbed in and Steven Kampfer moved up to forward.
- With Kampfer on the front lines, Jakub Kindl made his Cats' debut. The former Detroit defenseman logged 10:49 of ice time and dished out three hits.
- Newly-anointed number one goaltender Calvin Pickard finished the game with 38 saves to post his sixth win of the season. Roberto Luongo turned aside 23 shots for the Cats.
- Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen Logan Shaw and Vincent Trocheck were the six Panthers who registered six shots on goal during the game.
- Last night's tilt came on the 17th anniversary of Colorado's greatest comeback. The Avalanche rallied from a five-goal deficit to beat the Terry Murray-coached Cats 7-5 in Sunrise back in 1999.
- The fine folks at war-on-ice have the fancy stats stuff for you right here.
- NHL.com has the highlight package for you to watch with your own eyes.
- Scale the heights of Rocky Mountain Hockey for the other side of the Panthers tough loss to the Avs.