2/18/16: Sharks Were Circling
The Florida Panthers lost to the San Jose Sharks tonight, 2–1 in a shootout (sound familiar?). Grabbing one point, the injury riddled Panthers helped Jaromir Jagr to score his 740th career goal (18th of the season), leaving him one behind Brett Hull.
The first period was very much a feeling out process. There was very little stoppage as both teams seamlessly switched their lines, looking to grab some sort of an advantage. John McFarland was able to blank one off the post 4:41 into the game but that would be the only solid chance for the Cats up until 18:26 when Marleau was called for an interference. The power play did not yield a goal as the unit continues to suffer from injury absences.
The second period was defined by very tight hockey. The Cats were called for a few penalties, some of which were questionable. At 9:44, Wilson was called for interference due to knocking a stick out of an opponent’s hands and at 18:45, Kulikov was given a high sticking penalty even though, upon review, it looked like the stick never made contact with the player’s head/face. Head Coach Gerard Gallant made his feelings known. Even with three penalties, strong penalty killing kept the shot totals low, 15–14 at the end of the middle frame.
Jagr opened up the action at 2:23 in the third period with a nice rebound goal through the legs, off of a shot by Trocheck — himself not being able to capitalize on multiple breakaway opportunities throughout the game. Post-game, Trocheck mentioned that he should have scored on all three chances. From that point, the Panthers retreated. Very similarly to the previous game against the Pens, the action began to take place entirely in the defensive zone. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to beat Montoya. At 8:56, Joe Thornton made a quick pass from behind the net to a crossing Couture who, undefended, was left with a point blank shot to make it 1–1. The Panthers were able to generate some chances later in the period but would once again grab a point and head to overtime.
Our overtime units performed well. The Sharks were able to get off a good chance when Vlasic rang a shot off the crossbar at 1:25 — Montoya didn’t even see it. At 3:32, Trocheck was called for a slashing penalty and immediately protested the call. Looking at the replay, it was clear that his stick broke as he was lifting Tomas Hertl’s. Then, as he began to come down on top, the motion, in conjunction with the broken stick, cause the ref to call the slashing penalty.
This is going down as one of the worst calls of the season against the Cats; and Referee Dan O’Halloran made it clear that he didn’t want to hear any Trocheck’s objections as he entered the box. While it didn’t ultimately lead to a goal, the Panthers were hampered for most of the overtime period and were forced into a shootout.
Feeling confident from last game’s win, it seemed like the Panthers would take control of the shootout. During the first round, Huberdeau got caught by the post trying to pull the same move from last game, a short angle shot over the diving goalie. The following goal by Joonas Donskoi, through Montoya’s legs, gave San Jose the advantage. Bjugstad was then able to come back with a wicked wrister to tie things up. San Jose regained the lead with another five-hole wrister from Joe Pavelski. Jussi Jokinen had a chance to save the game with his shot in the third round. It seemed like he was going for the same move he scored on in the previous game, the same move that Huberdeau failed on in both shootouts, but he let go a wrist shot before committing the goalie to a dive. It looked like he saw an opening, under the blocker, where Bjugstad had just scored.
The 2–1 shootout loss, while upsetting, was still a win for the Cats as the two other playoff position teams, Boston and Detroit, both lost in regulation. With a five point lead, the Panthers will have one day of rest before taking on Winnipeg in the fifth of a six game home stand.
Saturday night’s game will be the second Panthers Palooza event. I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of other hardcore fans and tweeting up a storm throughout the game.