Filip Forsberg’s apparent game-tying goal with less than a second remaining in regulation time was disallowed due to goalie interference, giving the Florida Panthers an absolutely enormous 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at the BB&T Center.
Roberto Luongo turned in a vintage performance, finishing with 45 saves to post victories on back-to-back nights. An impressive accomplishment for the goaltender who turned 39 today.
Jonathan Huberdeau gave his keeper a lead to work with when he scored with 90 seconds left in the opening frame. Vincent Trocheck lugged the puck into the Nashville zone before pulling up and dishing off to Jamie McGinn. McGinn threw the puck in front where it deflected off the blade of Alexei Emelin’s stick and then Huberdeau’s body on its way past a helpless Pekka Rinne.
Luongo made 18 stops in the first period including this dandy on Ryan Hartman on a 2-on-1 break immediately after Huberdeau’s goal
After a scoreless second period, the Panthers went up by two 10:33 into the third. Aaron Ekblad sent Evgenii Dadonov down the left side boards with speed after a defensive zone faceoff. Despite being hooked (no call) by Ryan Ellis in the the neutral zone, Dadonov somehow kept his footing and maintained possession and eventually hit Colton Sceviour with a no-look backhand pass from behind the net that the trailing left winger scooped home for his tenth goal. Just an amazing individual effort by Dadonov to set up what turned out to be the game-winner.
Roman Josi ended Luongo’s shutout bid on Nashville’s 42nd shot when he took a pass from Ellis and weaved his way from the left point into the slot and slipped a backhander through traffic and into the back of the net. Ellis made a play to glove down Ekblad’s clearing attempt to keep the puck in the Panthers end.
The Predators appeared to tie the game, but fortunately (and rightly, maybe?) the potentially heartbreaking goal was waved off. Viktor Arvidsson was camped out in front of Luongo on the play that saw Josi take a shot from the just above the left circle. Luongo made the stop, but Arvidsson spun the goaltender with his stick as Forsberg swooped in and put the rebound in. It was ruled a goal on the ice, but replay officials ruled that Arvidsson had interfered with Luongo, giving the Cats the crucial victory.
The Panthers win coupled with Philadelphia’s 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders has the Cats just four points out of a playoff spot. The Flyers are now the team with the biggest target on their back. If Philadelphia drops its final two games in regulation, Florida can make the playoffs by winning two of its last three games. If the Flyers go 1-1, the Cats could still get in by winning out. The Panthers could still knock out either New Jersey or Columbus, but the chances of that happening are more remote.
Full Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)
Claws & Fangs
- Roberto Luongo started a back-to-back set for the first time this season and his 45 saves tied a season high. The tilt was Luongo’s 999th NHL appearance.
- Pekka Rinne finished the goaltending duel with 31 stops and his saw his record drop to 41-13-4.
- In addition to his assist, Vincent Trocheck led the Panthers with six shots on goal. Trocheck won 12 of 22 draws and had three takeaways.
- Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi all had six shots to pace the Predators in that department.
- Nick Bonino took the game’s only penalty, holding in the second period. The Panthers failed to score on the power play.
- Thursday night sees the Panthers host the Bruins, the Flyers host the Hurricanes, the Devils host the Maple Leafs, and the Blue Jackets host the Penguins. Playoff implications, you say?
- On The Forecheck has the other side of Florida’s win, which split the season-series of cat on cat action.