The Florida Panthers edged the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Friday night to end a five-game losing streak at the BB&T Center.
Greg McKegg lit the lamp for the second straight game to open the scoring 2:24 into the tilt. Derek MacKenzie dumped the puck off the boards behind the net and the carom eluded both Nashville defenders and came to McKegg in the slot. The 24-year-old went to the backhand to throw the puck up and over goaltender Juuse Saros. Paul Thompson also picked up an assist on the goal.
The Panthers tested Saros fifteen times in a penalty-filled second period, but they could not add to their lead. The feisty middle frame saw Jason Demers tussle with Austin Watson and Thompson take on Mike Fisher.
Craig Smith tied the game 5:03 into the third period, when he beat James Reimer to finish off a nice saucer pass from Mike Ribeiro. Filip Forsberg drew the second helper for starting the play off with some good work along the boards near the blue line.
Florida’s latest first line of Vincent Trocheck, Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Marchessault came up with the eventual game-winner 5:04 later. After some nice cycling by Jagr, Trocheck handed the puck back to Marchessault in the right circle, and his wrist shot leaked through Saros and over the goal line.
James Reimer, who finished with 28 stops, closed the door the rest of the way to give the Cats their first home win of the new year.
The Panthers will host the Bruins tonight to close the three-game homestand. Florida is now just two points behind the second to fourth place trio of Ottawa, Toronto and Boston.
Claws & Fangs
- Jonathan Marchessault’s game-winner was his third of the season. Marchessault has five points in his last five games.
- Roberto Luongo was slated to start, but some upper-body discomfort had him on the in the locker room to start the game. Luongo left for good during the first period and Panthers’ account executive, and former UConn goalie, Bobby Segin suited up as James Reimer’s emergency backup.
- Colton Sceviour returned to the lineup, but the Panthers lost Nick Bjugstad in the opening frame to a lower-body injury. The bug remains hungry.
- Juuse Saros finished the game with 32 saves for the Predators. Nice first period stops on Sceviour’s shorthanded breakaway and Jared McCann’s hard drive kept the Panthers from going up by two.
- Speaking of McCann, the 20-year-old registered two shots on goal in 10:49 TOI in his first game back from Springfield.
- Speaking of Springfield, the Thunderbirds beat Bridgeport 3-2 in a shootout on Friday night.
- The folks at On The Forecheck have the other side of this year’s first Cat-on-Cat clash./