Thursday Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Open Forum

Lightning help Cats by dropping game in hand to Capitals

The Florida Panthers got a little more good news as they enjoyed the first of two nights off after roaring back to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime on Tuesday.

John Carlson scored two power-play goals and added two assists to power the Washington Capitals over the visiting Tampa Bay Lighting by a 4-3 count.

The top four teams in the Atlantic Division have now played 70 games. Florida leads the division with a franchise record 104 points. The Buds are holding down second place with 96 points, while Boston Bruins and Bolts are each 11 points behind the Cats with 93.

Florida has all but wrapped home ice for the first round of the playoffs, as it’s highly unlikely they’d drop down two spots in the division with just 12 games to go and MoneyPuck gives the Panthers a 95.2% chance of winning the Atlantic after last night’s results.

The Cats main competition for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes will host the suddenly difficult Buffalo Sabres tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN+/Hulu.  Carolina, who has also played 70 games, will try to cut into Florida’s six-point lead.

Toronto will make its only regular season visit to the Lone Star State when they take on the Dallas Stars at 8:30 p.m. Go Stars!

In the AHL, the Charlotte Checkers will play its final three home games of the regular season by the end of the weekend. The opponent for all three games will be the desperate Hartford Wolf Pack, with the games coming on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Charlotte is currently in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 37-23-4 record. The official AHL site has a good article on Joey Daccord that’s worth a read, even if he is a Kraken.