Sunday Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Open Forum

Knight blanks Bridgeport for first professional shutout

The idle Florida Panthers got a little boost in the both the Atlantic Division and NHL standings due to the results of last night’s games.

Thanks to a 51-save from Thatcher Demko, the Vancouver Canucks slipped by the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 3-2 count. The Buds still have two games in hand on the Cats, but can no longer overcome Florida’s six-point lead based on those games.

The Minnesota Wild edged the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 after building a three-goal lead and holding on. Carolina’s loss means the Panthers are now second in the NHL in both points (69) and now points percentage (.734).

Tampa Bay, who is visiting New Jersey on Tuesday night, could take the Atlantic Division lead from the Cats with a win, but the Panthers would have two games in hand on the Bolts to make up the possible one-point deficit.

AHL Checkers

Spencer Knight stopped all 25 shots faced to lead the Charlotte Checkers to a 2-0 win on home ice over the Bridgeport Islanders in the second game of a back-to-back set. It was Knight’s first shutout as a professional. No Panthers prospects figured in the scoring as Scott Wilson and Kole Lind netted third period goals. Wilson’s power-play marker was set up by Dennis Cholowski and Brandon Fortunato. Lind’s empty-net clincher was unassisted.

The Islanders won Friday’s meeting over the Checkers by a 4-3 count. Logan Hutsko had two assists in the defeat.

Olympics Update

The semifinals are set in the Women’s tournment as Switzerland and Finland joined Canada and the United States in the final four. Switzerland got by Russia 4-2 and the Finns skated to a 7-1 romp over Japan. The Swiss team will take on Canada while the United States will meet Finland.

In Men’s action, Group B and Group C have completed opening round play.

In Group B, Czechia upset Russia 6-5 in overtime, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Russia from winning the group with seven points and grabbing one of the four guaranteed spots in the quarterfinals. Denmark beat Switzerland 5-3 to finish in second place. The Czechs finished in third place and the Swiss team came in fourth.

In Group C, Slovakia skated to a 5-2 win over Latvia to finish in third place, dooming the pointless Latvians to last place. Finland rallied from three down to win the group and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-3 overtime decision over archrival Sweden. Harri Pesonen was the hero, scoring 2:01 into the extra session.

Group A will complete its games when the Canada meets Canada and the United States faces Germany to the set the seeding in the eight-team playoff round and add two more teams straight to the quarterfinals. Team USA needs to earn at least one point to assure itself an automatic spot in the quarters.