Won at last, won at last, thank God almighty the Cats have won at last.
Gutting it out to bring a nine-game losing streak to a halt, the Florida Panthers pulled out an improbable win against the NHL-topping Anaheim Ducks on the strength of three unanswered goals from Shawn Matthias, Scottie Upshall and Brad Boyes. Tim Thomas stood tall in the Panther crease, turning aside 32 shots to seal a 3-2 victory for a deserving home team.
The tilt started, however, in familiar fashion; within forty seconds, the puck had found its way to the back of the Panther net, prompting sighs of frustration from the fans in attendance, and the launching of my cellphone into low orbit. Tying up Brian Campbell at center-ice, forward Devante Smith-Pelley managed to slide the puck to Daniel Winnik, who skated full-stride into the Panthers zone. Following a defensive lapse the size of the chunk that’s now missing from one of my crew team’s boats, Winnik flashed the puck across the slot to a wide-open Andrew Cogliano, who patiently rounded Thomas and slotted home his fourth goal in as many games.
Just over fourteen minutes later, rookie D-man Hampus Lindholm proved his worth in doubling the Ducks’ early lead. Spurred by an outstanding individual effort, Lindholm drove hard to the Panthers’ cage, nearly rounding Cats defenseman Campbell to fire a point-blank shot on net. Following a timely poke-check, the puck bounced around the boards to Emerson Etem, who pinned the puck along the boards until help arrived, in the form of Nick Bonino. Lindholm-patrolling the blue-line relatively unchallenged-stepped into a wrister following Bonino’s cross-ice feed that beat Thomas high glove-side.
Needless to say, I was heated. I walked into my Microeconomics exam (that I had not prepared for, mind you) anticipating to write up another losing recap. I sat down, guessed on about a third of the exam, turned my exam in to the supervising TA and sulked out of the auditorium. Pulling out my phone, I skimmed through texts, checked Facebook, and opened up Gamecenter to find-what’s this?-the Panthers had tied the game at two! In the second period, no less!
Matthias had struck first; following some good looks by the team as a whole, Soupy Campbell popped a slap-pass to the big-framed Matthias, who corralled the feed, spun to the inside of a wrong-footed Lindholm, and finessed a beauty of a backhand between the wickets of rookie tender Frederik Andersen. Lo and behold, Upshall had tied it 70 seconds later; snapping off a seeing-eye shot from the blue-line, the saucer dinked and deflected like a pinball, somehow finding its way past Andersen (THE HOCKEY GODS ARE REAL).
The referee’s whistle signaled the start of the third frame, and the game-winner came in the form of snakebitten veteran Brad Boyes’s backhand. Following tight forechecking from Boyes and second overall pick Aleksander Barkov, the latter hounded Brian Allen into committing a costly turnover, giving up the puck to Scottie Upshall in the heart of the slot. Upshall’s subsequent shot forced a pad save from Andersen, who could only watch as Boyes instantly pounced on the lifeless rebound left in the blue paint, mailing home his team-leading sixth goal of the year.
Break out the Nutella and blast some Ice Cube, boys-Today Was, indeed, a Good Day.
- Honestly, I was impressed by the play of recently recalled Mike Mottau. Playing in his first NHL game since the end of the 2012 season, the 35 year-old veteran made some seriously clutch plays, the best of which came in a crucial sequence in the third period that saw him break-up a pass with a diving poke-check. He called out open forwards to available teammates while defending the rush, looked comfortable in his own zone, and wasn’t afraid to give up the body. I wonder if anybody noticed…
- Jonathan Huberdeau was on the receiving end of a nasty Francois Beauchemin hook that left the star forward slow getting off the ice and me looking anxiously between my fingers. Thankfully, he shook it off within a matter of minutes, and resumed his role of generally causing a bad time for the Ducks defensemen.
- Tim Thomas deserved to be the number one star of this game, in my opinion. He stood on his head, had people stand on his head, made saves from the seat of his pants, and kept his squad in the game throughout its duration. Hopefully he can avoid his third injury of the campaign-I’m not all that comfortable with rolling out Scott Clemmensen. Not with the way defending has gone this season, at least.
- It’s Christmas in November, as the Cats gifted new head coach Peter Horachek his first NHL win. What are the odds they get him another before the real deal?
Weather at nine.