Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rebuilding Panthers Top Rebuilt Cup Champs 3-2

March 9, 2011

SUNRISE - The Florida Panthers hadn't won a game since February 25. The Chicago Blackhawks hadn't lost a game since February 20. That all changed when the Panthers beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Tuesday night at the Bank Atlantic Center. Florida played with a purpose, scoring all three of their goals in the opening frame. Florida attempted to put the game into cruise control, but that allowed Chicago to get back into the game as they scored two unanswered in the second. But the Panthers prevailed to get the win.

It all started just 4:06 into the first period. Michal Repik stole the puck in the offensive zone. He found himself in prime shooting zone oust inside the left wing point. Repik blasted a shot that went off the pads of Chicago netminder Corey Crawford, yielding a fat rebound. David Booth came swarming in (he actually had to get out of the way of the initial shot), got the shot off to the left of the goalie and into the net to put the Cats on top 1-0. It was Booth's 20th goal of the season and third in as many games.

Just a few minutes later, at 9:44, Sergei Samsonov came skating into the zone on the left side, instead of shooting, he passed it to his linemate Niclas Bergfors at center. Bergfors shot the puck right into a defender and it ended up on the stick of Clay Wilson. Wilson then got his best shot off. It floated past two defenders and the goalie, Crawford, who appeared to be screened or just lost sight of the slowly hit puck, ending up in the back of the net. It was Wilson's 2nd career goal and 1st of the season

With just a hair under seven seconds remaining in the period, it was Marty Reasoner's turn to get into the action. Booth took a feed from Keaton Ellerby. He took into the offensive zone on the left wing, and passed it to a hard skating Marty Reasoner who took the snap shot from the slot, going top shelf and giving Florida a three goal cushion. Reasoner now has 14 goals this year.

But in the locker room, somebody forgot to remind the Panthers there were 40 minutes left in the game. Midway through the second period, the Blackhawks finally got on the board. Brian Campbell took the puck in along the right wing boards. He gave a cross-ice feed to Brian Campbell. Campbell circled the net and passed it to a crashing Kane who, with the flick of a wrist, scored a goal. Campbell and Ryan Johnson assisted Kane's 22nd goal at the 11:03 mark.

Veteran scorer Marian Hossa got into the act 2 and a half minutes later. He carried the puck into the zone on the left side, attempting a backhand that went very wide into the right corner, where it was played to Dave Bolland. Bolland passed it back to Hossa who connected for his 19th goal on the season to put the game within one. Bryan Bickell also assisted on the goal.

Then the goalies stepped in. Not to discredit Marty Turco, who stepped in for Crawford, but the Panthers shut down offensively and after only 8 shots on target in the first period, combined for just 7 in the final two frames. Tomas Vokoun, on the other hand, was phenomenal in net. He stopped 37 of 39 shots, including 14 in the critical third period.

CAT BYTES: Pete DeBoer finally got win number 100 in his career. He is 100-98-33 on his career, so while it took two weeks between wins number 99 and 100, he still remains over .500 for his three year NHL career. A crowd of 16,132 attended the game, with many getting loud for the two Chicago Blackhawks goals. The two teams did not meet in Sunrise in 2010 as Chicago and Florida played two games in Helsinki, Finland to start the season. This was the first game all year in which the Panthers' opponent stayed out of the penalty box. Florida has stayed out of the sin bin in two games this season. Despite their lowest shot total of the season, the Panthers won the game. The Panthers had 17 shots against the New York Rangers, but won that game 4-3.

THREE STARS: 3) Patrick Kane (1 goal) 2) David Booth (1 goal, 1 assist) 1) Tomas Vokoun (W, 37 saves)

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