The Florida Panthers ended 2018 on high note, storming back from a three-goal first period deficit to edge the faltering Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout on New Year’s Eve at Little Caesar’s Arena.
Detroit scored its three goals on just eight shots in the opening frame, forcing head coach Bob Boughner to replace Roberto Luongo with James Reimer at the start of the second period.
Reimer, coming off an impressive 34-save performance against Philadelphia on Saturday, stopped 12 shots and all three Red Wing attempts in the skills competition to help Florida capture two points.
Andreas Athanasiou opened the scoring with a breakaway goal at the 5:15 mark and Gustav Nyquist and former Panther Thomas Vanek solved Luongo 59 seconds apart late in the period to give the Red Wings a three-goal cushion.
Luongo didn’t get much help from his defense, especially on the second goal where Nyquist made Aaron Ekblad (and Keith Yandle to lesser extent) look downright silly, but he didn’t appear to have his “A” game either, getting beaten badly by Athanasiou in particular.
The Cats flipped the script in the second period, with Jared McCann’s shorthanded goal at 6:19 lighting the spark.
With Denis Malgin off for tripping, Mark Pysyk sent McCann into the Detroit zone and his shot deflected off Dennis Cholowski’s leg and caught Jimmy Howard up high. Juho Lammikko won the rebound and he went to Jared, who deposited the puck into a wide-open net with the stung Howard in too much pain to react much.
Frank Vatrano would send Henrik Borgstrom in with speed and the rookie was able to capitalize on a broken play at the 12:11 mark after his pass attempt in front for Evgenii Dadonov didn’t get through. Borgstrom stayed with it and tried again and his second attempt, with one hand, ending up bouncing through Howard’s pads and over the goal line. Ekblad picked up the secondary assist on Borgstrom’s third.
Not to be outdone, fellow rookie and Springfield call-up Jayce Hawryluk collected his third goal with a fine effort 4:04 later. Hawryluk broke up a play in his own zone and then headed up ice to bang in Colton Sceviour’s perfect centering feed. Sceviour did a nice job of fending off Filip Hronek and put the puck right on the tape of the driving Hawryluk, who had a stride on Christoffer Ehn.
Reimer made seven stops in third and the Panthers caught a break when video review found Athanasiou to be just offsides, denying the speed merchant a second breakaway goal. Nice challenge here by Boughner.
In overtime, Reimer denied Franz Nielsen twice to get the Cats to the shootout, where he stopped Nyquist, Nielsen again and forced a miss from Dylan Larkin to end the game.
Jonathan Huberdeau converted in the bottom of the first round, undressing Howard with a drop dead gorgeous move and forehand finish for the deciding goal, giving Florida six wins in its last eight games.
Hats off to the Panthers for bouncing back from a dreadful first period to get the win. Bringing Reimer in was the right move, and the Cats absolutely dominated the second, scoring three times to tie the game, while out-shooting Detroit 14-2. Maybe it’s time to start giving Reimer more playing time and stop trying to force it with Luongo still being the undisputed number one who gets the bulk of the starts, That’s not working. Florida’s “Big 4” forwards were quiet in this one, but Huberdeau stepped up and delivered the clutch goal that pulled the Panthers a little closer to a playoff spot after McCann and a couple of T-Birds provided the “O” in regulation.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)