Life of Reilly: Smith nets two in Panthers 7-4 romp over Sabres
Alex Petrovic all over the stat sheet with Gordie Howe hat trick
Less than twenty-four hours after being blanked in Detroit, the Florida Panthers offense broke out big time in a 7-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Eleven different Panthers finished with at least a point, with six of those players posting mulit-point games, led by Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen's respective three-spots.
Smith opened the scoring with a blast off the cross bar and in after taking a cross-ice feed from Jokinen at 7:40. Vincent Trocheck started the play off by forcing a turnover in the offensive zone.
Brian Campbell added to the lead 3:05 later when his shot from the left wing caught Rasmus Ristolainen's stick (sorry Potvin) and sailed over Robin Lehner's shoulder. Alex Petrovic and Nick Bjugstad were credited with the assists on Soup's fifth goal.
The Cats' second line clicked again with 25 seconds left in the frame to put the visitors up by three. Jokinen got the goal this time to cap off a very pretty passing play involving Smith and Trocheck, who beat Zach Bogosian to a puck behind the net.
Petrovic bagged his second career goal with a knuckling drive after a Bjugstad face-off win 22 ticks into the second period to end Lehner's night early. The Sabres keeper finished up with just four saves on eight shots.
Needing a fight to complete a Gordie Howe hat trick, Petrovic squared off with Evander Kane 1:22 later. It was one of three bouts between the two players during the game.
Buffalo's Sam Reinhart made things interesting with two power-play goals 3:55 apart to halve the deficit. The rookie has now scored in three straight games.
Reinhart knocked in a rebound of a blocked Risotlainen shot that caromed off the back boards at the 1:09 mark and then used his foot to redirect a Ryan O'Reilly pass by Roberto Luongo at 5:04. O'Reilly picked up the secondary assist on the first Reinhart tally, while Jack Eichel drew the second helper on marker number two.
Brandon Pirri restored Florida's three-goal with a nice deflection of a Campbell flip towards net from the blue line at 7:39. Quinton Howden earned the second assist by getting the puck back to Campbell at the point.
Florida would get one more before the period ended to make it 6-2. Jaromir Jagr notched career goal 739 after working a give-and-go with Jonathan Huberdeau before beating Chad Johnson just inside the post. Aaron Ekblad also picked up an assist on Jagr's seventeenth of the campaign.
The Sabres struck for two goals in the third period to again cut the Cats' lead down to two.
Kane ripped one by Luongo, from Josh Gorges, at 10:14 and defenseman Mike Weber notched his first of the year, off the body of Brent Regner, at 17:17 with the assists going to David Legwand and Cody Franson.
Smith sent a rolling puck into the empty Sabres cage with 1:57 remaining in regulation time to complete the scoring. Jokinen drew the lone helper on Smith's team-leading eighteenth goal.
The win, combined with losses by Tampa Bay and Boston and an off night for Detroit, pushed the Panthers' lead in the Atlantic Division to eight points. Florida has played one more game than that trio of teams, who are currently tied for second place.
The Cats are off until Friday when they kick off an important six-game homestand against the St. Louis Blues.
Wings & Things
- What a night for Alex Petrovic. The second year defender had a goal, an assist, a block, a hit, racked up 29 PIM and finished with a +4. rating. Wow!
- Vincent Trocheck, with two helpers, got right back at it a day after having his five-game point streak snapped. Trocheck now has 11 points (5G/6A) in his last six games.
- Speaking of hot Panthers, Jussi Jokeinen has piled up 14 points (4G/10A) over his last twelve games, while Reilly Smith has posted 11 points (6G/5A) in his last nine games. Jokinen tied Jaromor Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau for the club scoring lead with 38 points.
- Jagr's goal left him three shy of surpassing Brett Hull (741) as the NHL third-best marksman of all-time. Once Jagr passes Hull, Gordie Howe is the next target with 801.
- Not the best of performances for Roberto Luongo, who finished the game with 30 stops. Luongo made his 906th regular season appearance, tying him with "Mr. Goalie" Glenn Hall for sixth all-time. Lu did make a couple of big stops, including a key one on Daniel Catenacci when the score was still 4-2.
- Chad Johnson came in after the fourth Florida goal and played well enough to give his team a chance at a comeback. Johnson turned aside 20 of the 22 shots he faced in relief.
- The folks at war-on-ice have got the advanced stats recap for you.
- Feast your eyes on this tasty highlight package from NHL.com.
- Go 'round the outside and make a stop at Die By The Blade for the other side of this latest clash between Atlantic Division rivals./