After a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers Monday night, a defeat that was assisted by a disallowed goal and an out of position official, what is likely the most crucial game of the Florida Panthers final 10 game stretch comes Thursday against the Boston Bruins.
Head coach Gerard Gallant “carefully” questioned the officiating after the game but he also ripped into his players for only bringing 15 minutes of effort to a game they needed to win:
“We can’t show up and play 15 minutes, and that’s all we played tonight. The Rangers dominated the first two periods and there is no excuse for that.”
On to Boston
The Panthers still lead the Atlantic Division by two points over the Tampa Bay Lightning and three over the Bruins but Tampa has a game in hand and would win the ROW tiebreaker if it came to that. However, clinching first place in the division is critical unless the Cats want to face a first round playoff matchup against the Bruins or Lightning. Unfortunately, the season series favours the Bruins who have a 2W-0L-1OTL against the Cats this season.
In their last meeting in Sunrise, the Panthers managed to take the Bruins to overtime and, maybe, that’s a sign that their rejuvenated third line will be able to push them to victory on Thursday.
Leading the way for the Panthers that last game was newly acquired Jiri Hudler, who potted two goals and an impressive six shots on goal. Hudler, Teddy Purcell, who was also acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the deadline have joined Nick Bjugstad on that third line and the combination seems to have produced instant chemistry, which provides some much need scoring depth. Bjugstad has come alive in the past five games scoring three goals and five points while Purcell has added two goals and four points in that time span.
One to Watch
Everywhere the Panthers go this season, but especially on this road trip through the eastern seaboard, much of the attention is focused on Jaromir Jagr. After being acknowledged by the Rangers for his service in New York, Jagr will likely get some love from another former team in Boston but Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon is pointing to Vincent Trocheck as the reason the Panthers are fighting for the division crown.