Sunrise, FL – Be cool, my babies. The Panthers are coming off a tough 4-0 loss in Columbus, but all hope isn’t lost. Florida was only three points behind the New Jersey Devils coming into this game, and Jersey is facing the #1 seeded, Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, the Cats are playing host to the Arizona Coyotes, who are tied for last place in the west. Sounds like an easy way for the Panthers to gain some ground in the playoff chase, right?

For the past couple of months, I’ve been hearing this Panthers squad being compared to last season’s Miami Heat. If you remember, the Heat got off to a terrible start, only to turn it around in the 2nd half of the season. Despite putting together one of the better 2nd halves in franchise history, the team still missed the playoffs by one game. Sounds familiar, right?

The Panthers might be headed in that same direction, but they’re still in the driver’s seat. They can’t fall asleep at the wheel though. Someone tell coach Bob Boughner to give these dudes some Cuban coffee. We’re in South Florida. There’s plenty to go around. That being said, Florida only needs to worry about surpassing the Devils.

I was beginning to think it just wasn’t their night. Florida was outshot by Arizona 9-13 in the 1st period, and found themselves down 1-0, off of a Clayton Keller goal, at the 1st intermission. The Cats turned it around in the 2nd period. They outshot Arizona 20-11, and had the power play advantage 3:43 to 0:53, but could not find the back of the net. Arizona, on the other hand, capitalized on their 0:53-second power play, and went up 0-2 on the Panthers thanks to Richard Panik.

I guess the Cats just wanted to give the Coyotes a head start, because, in the 3rd period, Florida’s game plan finally came through. They outshot the Coyotes 18-4 and had a 3:05 (How very Miami of them) to 0:00 power play advantage. My favorite stat of the night though was that the Panthers scored four goals in the 3rd period. Vincent Trocheck was involved in three of them. He scored the 1st two and assisted in the 4th. The 4th goal was a power-play spoon-fed empty-netter for Jamie McGinn, passed up by Aleksander Barkov. McGinn said in his postgame comments about the play “This guy’s the most unselfish person I’ve ever met” in regards to Barkov’s pass.

The boys stuck to their game plan and it paid off. Before the game, coach Boughner said that, against Columbus, they had gotten away from what they do best, and that it had been a topic of conversation before tonight’s game. The Panthers beat their opponents with speed and forward advancement of the puck.

On Thursday, Trocheck (24 years old) played his 300th NHL game. Tonight, Aaron Ekblad (22 years old) played in his 300th as well. The 300-game mark is considered to be the point where NHL players “come into their own”. The Panthers have a nice young, and experienced core, and have picked up steam at the right time. Panthers win tonight 4-2. Next up, they face the New York Islanders on Monday, March 26th.

Tonight’s 3-stars


Photo by Eliot J. Schechter

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Gustavo Chacon
Born and raised in the 305! I find it pointless to memorize every sports stat since the beginning of time when I can just look it up. I'm not afraid to tell you why your opinion is 100% wrong. Wanna get into it? Argue with me @OnaPsiH. It'll be fun!

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