After an embarrassing 7-1 loss earlier this season, the Florida Panthers were able to salvage some dignity and get some revenge as they squeaked past the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in a shootout. With a win over the Flyers on Thursday, the Panthers have now earned points in their past four games as they slowly climb out of the cellar of the Southeast Division.
The Panthers night started off right with a goal by energetic fourth liner, Jack Skille. Skille, who had a been a healthy scratch the previous game, took full advantage of his opportunity on Thursday and played an overall solid game on both ends of the ice. Along with his goal, Skille also added four hits and one blocked shot to the Panthers’ victory effort.
The Philadelphia Flyers offense was firing on all cylinders against the Panthers, but simply couldn’t get enough pucks past a red-hot Jose Theodore in net. After struggling in recent games, Theodore was outstanding on Thursday, stopping 30 of 32 Flyers’ shots as well as both of Philadelphia’s shootout attempts. As the Panthers’ defense continues to get healthier and build better chemistry, Theodore’s play in net should ascend as well.
Speaking of the Panthers’ defense, the Cats welcomed back the young and talented Erik Gudbranson to their blue line on Thursday night and he did not show any signs of rust. Gudbranson, who had missed the start of the season due to an upper body injury, saw 21:02 TOI and was not babied in his first game back with the club. For his return, Gudbranson was placed on the Panthers top defensive line with Brian Campbell and compiled 2 blocked shots, 3 hits, 1 shot and played an overall terrific effort on defense. On a Panthers’ roster that was decimated by injuries at the beginning of the season, his return to the ice could possibly end up being the most important.
Heading into the third period, the Panthers found themselves in a 2-1 hole, but were not ready to call it a night. After an incredibly slow and criticized beginning to his 2013 season, Stephen Weiss was finally able to score his first goal of the season as he slipped a wrist shot past Flyers’ goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov – who was blinded by a brilliant screen from Peter Mueller. Hopefully this will be the start of a streak of good play from Weiss whose name is now starting to circle the trade rumor circuit. Even if he is eventually traded, Weiss’ improved play will benefit the Panthers both in the standings and on the trade market.
After ending regulation tied 2-2, the Panthers and Flyers played through a scoreless overtime period and headed toward what had been the bane of the Panthers’ existence last season – a shootout. Last season, the Florida Panthers competed in 17 shootouts and were only able to win 6 of them. However, these are not last year’s Panthers and they proved it tonight. Newcomers Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both scored on their shootout attempts, capping off the team’s comeback victory. With their improved talent in shootouts, the Panthers will hopefully avoid the overtime losses that cost them so many crucial points last season.
The Panthers will look to get their point streak to five games on Saturday as they take on their Southeast Division rivals, the Washington Capitals. The Capitals are currently in disarray and are in the midst of a three game losing streak. However, the Capitals always play the Panthers tough and this game won’t be an easy one. The puck drops on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on FOX SPORTS Florida.
- Veteran forward Alex Kovalav was a healthy scratch on Thursday night after a streak of consistently uninspiring play. After a hot start to the season, Kovalev has only been able to record one point in the team’s last six games and could potentially be playing himself out of a job as the team gets healthier. After Jack Skille’s impressive game against the Flyers, Kovalev may be scratched against the Capitals as well.
- Defenseman Tyson Strachan was solid once again on Thursday night, not taking any penalties and blocking two shots. However, even with his reliable defensive play, it is likely that Strachan will be scratched once team Captain Ed Jovanovski returns from injury. However, Strachan’s efforts may earn him a nice contract from either the Panthers or another NHL team at the end of the season.