|@ Panthers (23-12-4)||1||0||1||2|
All it took was one shot and 27 seconds to put the Panthers on the board. Jaromir Jagr regained the goal lead early on. The tally was assisted by Dmitry Kulikov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Wild came back swinging in the next couple of minutes but this all changed when they had too many men on the ice. The Cats couldn’t score but at least they got their second shot on goal of the game. The Wild started gaining momentum but then were called for another penalty.
This time, it was Ryan Suter for holding. Again, the Panthers didn’t score, but Al Montoya got a bit of a break. This break would be extended as Zach Parise was sent to the penalty box for tripping. This penalty too was killed, without much of a problem. At the end of the period, the Panthers led the Wild 1-0 but trailed in shots on goal 10-8. The fact that the Panthers are in the lead at the end of the first is impressive, but Minnesota has a very skilled team that clearly came out to play and if the Panthers don’t start generating some offense, the Wild could catch right up to them. The Panthers did stay very disciplined this period, while the Wild didn’t, but also didn’t take many risks.
Just as expected, the Wild came out and scored in the first minute of the second to tie the game. Jason Zucker scored the goal. The Panthers’ lack of effort allowed Zucker easy access to Montoya and just like that, we were back at square one. Then, to continue the notion that this period seems to be the exact opposite of the last one, Vincent Trocheck was penalized for holding. The penalty was killed but Montoya had a much harder time doing so than Dubnyk did. The fans started cheering and the Panthers started performing, but to no avail.
With 9:25 left in the period, the Panthers would have the chance to take their lead back when Nino Niederreiter was called for interference but alas, the score remained tied. As soon as the Wild started getting their game back on track, Nick Bjugstad got a penalty for hooking. Al Montoya kept Minnesota from taking the lead. At the end of the period, the score was tied 1-1 but the Wild still kept the lead in shots on goal 26-16. This period really was a carbon copy of the last, except completely reversed. The Panthers seemed to be playing much better and took more risks but it was the Wild who were able to score. After a fairly even two periods, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the third.
This period, nobody scored in the first minute. The final frame would truly be an even battle. Just a few minutes into the period, the Panthers got a power play opportunity when Mikko Koivu was sent to the sin bin for delay of game. This was the Panthers’ best power play yet, but they still could not get the puck past Dubnyk. As soon as Koivu left the Wild’s box, Alex Petrovic went to the Panthers’ for boarding. Luckily, Montoya was on his game as well and the score still remained tied. The tie wouldn’t last forever though, as none other than Jaromir Jagr came to save the day.
He scored with 11:08 left in regulation and the goal was assisted by Brandon Pirri and Dmitry Kulikov. The Panthers and their fans were on fire now. The Cats kept possession of the puck until 4:58, when Brian Campbell was penalized on a hooking call. Some hard work by the Panthers’ penalty killers kept them in the lead and kept Dubnyk on the Minnesota bench. The last few minutes of the game were not easy on Montoya, but he was able to provide the Panthers with the win either way. The Panthers won their ninth straight game 2-1 and maintained a perfect record on this home stand.
Jaromir Jagr would not talk to any reporters last night. He simply got back on the ice and started skating. His discipline clearly paid off, as he got the Panthers on the board tonight and then scored their game winner. He really is a superhuman. Dmitry Kulikov, the man who made the passes necessary to make these two goals happen, should also be noted and appreciated. Al Montoya faced many tough shots tonight, but he did so with grace and skill. Without Montoya, the Panthers’ win streak would not have continued.
The Panthers will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday, January 5th at 7:00 pm ET against the Buffalo Sabres. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.