The Florida Panthers entered Thursday night’s meeting against Philadelphia riding a three-game winning streak. The Flyers were also a hot team coming into South Florida having won 7 of their last 10 games. With that in mind let’s see what happened.
The Panthers were able to start off with some fortune as the refs dinged the Flyers with two early 1st period penalties setting up a 5-on- 3 power play for Florida. Although the Panthers almost got a goal with a shot ringing off the post, the Flyers were able to kill it off and resume play.
A lull in the action had the Flyers faithful in the stands clashing with the Florida fanaticos as a good crowd was on hand to witness this game. Nick Bjugstad was able to lead a nice 2-on-1 breakaway but Brian Elliott made the stop.
At the 6:43 mark of the first period, center Jared McCann sniped a beautiful goal past Elliott to put the first goal up on the board. This goal was the first points Jared McCann had registered since the December 14 contest against the Colorado Avalanche. McCann’s fifth goal of the season was courtesy of Nick Bjugstad and Mike Matheson.
Over the course of the first period it was clear that Florida’s defensive efforts were on point as the Cats only allowed five shots. This included a penalty kill on a Alex Petrovic slashing call and a 4-on- 4 scenario that saw the Panthers first line sustain pressure on Brian Elliott. James Reimer came up with a big save on Simmonds.
The second period saw the Panthers with another early period power play however the Cats’ woes on the man advantage continued as Philly killed it off. The Flyers gained some defensive momentum after this kill but the second period was pretty mundane until Vincent Trocheck was sent to the penalty box for slashing.
During the penalty kill a loose puck heading towards the neutral zone was picked up by a sprinting Colton Sceviour who entered the Flyers zone and dished it out to Derek MacKenzie who blasted a one-timer past a diving Elliott for the shorthanded goal. This was the Captain’s first goal of the 2017-18 campaign.
Things got chippy in the middle of the second frame with Petrovic and Michael Raffl both getting into a fight. Petrovic would be tacked on a roughing penalty as well but the Cats were able to kill off another penalty.
Shortly thereafter the surging Jonathan Huberdeau fired off a magnificent top shelf goal over Elliotts shoulder to extend the lead of Los Gatos to 3-0. This jacked up goal was aided by Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad’s second point of the night. Huberdeau has now scored four goals in the last three games.
As the Flyers began to press following this goal it was clear that something is very much different in how James Reimer is fielding pucks. Coach Boughner has stated that Reimer’s work with goalie coach Robb Tallas has improved Reimer’s positioning so that he can anticipate the puck and make saves on instinct rather than solely by his vision.
Entering the third period, it was clear the Panthers were not pushing as hard although the third and fourth lines were trying to keep some offensive pressure. Midway into the third and Philly found their first goal thanks to wrist shot by Scott Laughton at the 12:28 mark. Travis Konecny and Michael Raffl with the assists.
The Flyers continued egging the Panthers as the Cats were now playing on their heels. With an empty net and the sixth man on the Flyers were able to lower the deficit to one thanks to a goal by Sean Couturier that deflected off a skater and made it past James Reimer. Shayne Gostibehere and Flyers captain Claude Giroux had the helpers on this one.
A mad scramble ensued for the final three minutes of this game as the Flyers left their net empty and the Panthers desperately tried to regain possession. Some clutch stops by James Reimer and the Panthers finally wrestling away possession from Philly in the waning seconds brought this game to an end with a final of 3-2. The Panthers extend their winning streak to four games now and three wins on the holiday homestand.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Puntos De Hoy
● 17,083 people enjoyed the matchup inside the BB&T Center although many visiting Flyers fans were noticeably absent at the start of the third period.
● James Reimer allowed 2 goals tonight but don’t let that cloud the fact that he had previously not allowed a goal in his previous 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 54 seconds of play. Not too shabby for Optimus Reim!
● Although it made the game more tense, hometown kid was able to get an assist on Sean Couturier’s 3rd period goal that brought the Panthers lead to 3-2. The Pembroke Pines native now has 28 points in 34 games played this season for Philadelphia
● The Panthers’ defensive game is solidifying with James Reimer providing stability in Luongo’s absence. The Cats clogged up passing lanes, had their sticks constantly down on the ice to poke away shots, and left Philly frustrated for the better part of two and a half periods.
● Jonathan Huberdeau was told by Bob Boughner a few games back that Huberdeau had less than 100 shots and that this was not good for a player of his caliber on the top line of an NHL team. Since that conversation with coach Boughner Huberdeau has taken off in scoring and looks to be a solid candidate to represent the Panthers in the NHL All-Star Game in Tampa this season.
● Scouts from the Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, and New jersey Devils were on hand tonight as the NHL’s holiday trade freeze has ended and the midway point has clubs looking to add for a playoff push.
● The win moves Florida one point behind Philadelphia in the wild card race although both teams are still a ways off from the Islanders and Rangers at 44 points in the two spots. The Panthers are also chasing the Maple Leafs who have 45 points so far and hold the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
Las Panteras have another day off before hosting Les Canadiens on Saturday, December 30 in the annual pre-New Year’s invasion of the Quebecois. See you then Cats fans!