After Saturday night, the Florida Panthers might want to think about opening up a bar.
Florida mixed frustration, desperation and hunger with great goaltending and a little puck luck to produce a potent New Year’s Eve cocktail. The concoction powered Florida to a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars, giving the victors a much-needed two points after three straight overtime or shootout losses and capping the Stars’ win streak at three games.
The Panthers mauled the Stars in the first period, racing to a 3-0 lead while outshooting the home team, 22-6.
“The slow start killed us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We created our own problems and that first 20 minutes was too tough to recover from.”
Dallas played a much stronger game over the final two periods, but only managed to get one puck past Florida goalie James Reimer, who stopped 35 of 36 shots.
“The guys were great,” said Florida coach Tom Rowe. “I am happy for them. As coaches, we are thrilled for the players because they’ve gone through a lot and stuck with it and they got rewarded tonight.”
The Florida Panthers had an almost-flawless first period, catching the Stars flat-footed. 3:06 in, Vincent Trocheck went to the net and poked in the rebound of a Jaromir Jagr shot to put the Cats up, 1-0.
Minutes later, Patrick Eaves got loose in the offensive zone and had a golden opportunity to tie the game, but shot the puck wide. He was merely the first Star to waste a scoring chance on this night, however.
Stars lead NHL with 539 shots that missed the net (averaging 14.2 per game), but they even outdid themselves tonite with 27 misses vs. FLA.
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) January 1, 2017
With Jamie Benn in the box for high-sticking, Florida needed just six seconds on the man-advantage to score, Jussi Jokinen picking the top corner to beat Niemi.
68 seconds later, Florida’s legendary number 68, Jaromir Jagr, scored another power play goal to end Niemi’s night. The Panthers dominated the opening period in almost every stat category.
#FLAvsDAL Stats After 20:
Goals: 3-0 FLA
SOG: 22-6 FLA
SAT: 29-14 FLA
*QSC: 7-4 FLA
FOW: 14-6 FLA
BLK: 4-2 DAL
PIM: 4-0 DAL
— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) January 1, 2017
The second period unfolded according to the NHL’s unwritten “script,” with the trailing Stars ramping up the pressure and the Panthers playing more defensively, trying to hold onto their three-goal lead.
Devin Shore drew a penalty at 9:20 on a hard-working shift, putting Dallas on the power play. Though the Stars generated two shots while up a man, Panthers goalie James Reimer and Lady Luck worked together to keep the puck out of the net.
With four minutes remaining in the period, Jagr was boxed for a second time. This time, the Cats’ luck ran out as Patrick Eaves flipped a rebound over the sprawling Reimer to break the seal. Stars captain Jamie Benn appeared to be injured on the play after going awkwardly into the boards but would remain in the game.
Eaves goal pic.twitter.com/sXNeW1icoX
— GIF Grand Maester (@myregularface) January 1, 2017
Eaves’ goal gave the Stars new life, while the Panthers seemed a bit rattled. Reimer made a big stop on a Seguin shot from mid-slot in the final minute to preserve Florida’s two-goal lead. Dallas out-shot the visitors in the second period, 10-9.
Other than a fruitless two-on-one rush in the first minute, the Panthers played a rope-a-dope final frame in Dallas. Though the Stars out-shot the Cats, 20-7, they failed to cash in on two power plays in the period.
Reimer proved both good and lucky in the Florida net. He made a couple of big stops late, including a pad save on a Devin Shore redirect of a Seguin point shot with 1:49 remaining.
The Panthers closed the book on 2016 in the best way possible and hope to build on Saturday’s victory. The Stars, on the other hand, hope to move on from this game as quickly as possible.
FLA – Vincent Trocheck (11) assisted by Jaromir Jagr (16) and Seth Griffith (5)
FLA – Jussi Jokinen (3) (PPG) assisted by Vincent Trocheck (10) and Reilly Smith (9)
FLA – Jaromir Jagr (7) (PPG) assisted by Jonathan Marchessault (13) and Keith Yandle (16)
DAL – Patrick Eaves (13) (PPG) assisted by Jamie Benn (24) and Tyler Seguin (25)
THW Three Stars
First: James Reimer (35 saves)
Second: Vincent Trocheck (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Jaromir Jagr (1 goal, 1 assist)
Montreal Canadiens at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 4
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, SN360, SNE, SNO, RDS
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Winnipeg Jets at Florida Panthers
BB&T Center – 7:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 4
Broadcast channels: FS-F, SN1, SNW, SNP
2016-17 Season Series: December 15 – Jets 4, Panthers 3 (SO)
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.