Monday Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Open Forum
Checkers sweep Rochester to strengthen hold on 3rd place
The Florida Panthers are off this week and will resume play a week from now when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at FLA Live Arena.
With the Cats still basking in the glory of Saturday night’s stunning 4-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins, let’s take look a what’s up down on the farm.
The Charlotte Checkers went on the road and swept the Rochester Americans over the weekend at Blue Cross Arena.
On Friday, the Checkers jumped out to a three-goal lead before holding on for a 4-2 victory. Gerry Mayhew and Connor Bunnaman each collected a goal and an assist to spark the offense. Also scoring were Riley Bezeau and defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who potted the empty-net clincher. Helpers went to Patrick Giles, Logan Hutsko, Calle Sjalin and veteran goaltender J.F. Berube, who finished the game with 25 saves.
Saturday’s tilt saw Charlotte rally from a goal down after two periods by scoring three times in the third for a 5-3 win over the Amerks. Trailing 1-0 after one, Aleksi Heponiemi notched a power-play goal and Bunnaman scored at even-strength to give the Checkers the lead. Rochester countered with goals from Anders Bjork and Mason Jobst to go back on top. Zac Dalpe’s power-play tied the game at 6:25 before rookie Justin Sourdif bagged the eventual game-winner 2:27 later. Sjalin clinched it with an empty-netter at 18:35, his first-ever AHL goal. Recently returned Grigori Denisenko drew assists on the tying and winning goals. Riley Nash, Dalpe, Hutsko, Heponiemi and Matt Kiersted also collected assists. Florida Everblades keeper Cam Johnson, up for Mack Guzda, made 20 stops to get the win.
Taking the back-to-back gave the Checkers (23-15-2-2) a three-game winning streak. They are 6-3-0-1 in their last ten games and currently in third place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
The idle Cats, who have 54 points, got a little help in the playoff chase yesterday when the Toronto Maple Leafs posted a 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Florida trails Washington (WC1) by four points, but now both teams have played 52 games. The Panthers are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2), who have only played 49 games. Sitting between the Cats and Penguins are the Buffalo Sabres, 56 points in 49 games, and the New York Islanders, who have accumulated 55 points in 52 games. Florida has a lot work of do over its final 30 games to slip into the postseason.