|@ Jets (26-32-4)||0||2||0||2|
The period started with a prompt tripping call on Jussi Jokinen and a Panthers penalty kill. Roberto Luongo was able to stop every shot, but the Panthers were being embarrassingly outshot in the first few minutes of the game. The Panthers didn’t even get their first shot on goal until nearly nine minutes into the period. The shots didn’t flow freely for the Panthers after their first, though. In fact, the Panthers didn’t have many chances at all. The Jets, on the other hand, were not making things easy on Luongo. Luckily, all it takes is one breakaway to change everything. Reilly Smith scored off of a Trocheck pass from a redirection. Steven Kampfer got the secondary assist. The call was challenged because the Jets thought it was scored on an offsides play, but the play was ruled a goal nonetheless and the Panthers were on the board. Despite the score, the Jets were still dominating in every other aspect. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 1-0 but trailed immensely in shots on goal 16-5. The Panthers were leading after one but that was solely due to Luongo. He has had to make some difficult saves in order to keep the Panthers in the game. The Cats should not have to rely on Luongo to the extent that they have been in this period and in the past. Their defense needs to step it up.
The beginning of the second period seemed fairly familiar. Dmitry Kulikov was penalized for hooking early on. It’s almost like the Panthers got a penalty early in the first period too. Crazy right? In any event, the penalty was easily killed. The Panthers still were not gaining possession of the puck, and this time around, they were not as lucky. Dustin Byfuglien scored five minutes into the period to tie the game. The Panthers would finally get a power play when Drew Stafford was penalized for slashing Vincent Trocheck. The Panthers were unable to score, but unfortunately, the Jets were. Andrew Copp was the goal scorer, and the Panthers’ lack of defense was finally starting to catch up to them. The team was falling apart, and this was only made worse by a Vincent Trocheck boarding penalty. The penalty was killed, which was surprising at this point. The Panthers didn’t improve much as the period went on but they would have the chance to come back when Joel Armia was penalized for hooking in the final minute of the period. At the end of the period, the Jets were leading 2-1 and also led in shots on goal 25-10. This is exactly what I feared would happen after the shoddy play in the first. The defense was not there and the offense just as bad. Luongo just couldn’t keep up all of the time, and who could blame him? This must be rectified in the third or the Panthers will lose yet again.
The Panthers would have their biggest chance of the game when the penalty that carried over from last period combined with a Andrew Copp slashing call allowed for 40 seconds of 5-on-3. Teddy Purcell pushed hard for the Cats and eventually, one of his shots made it Vincent Trocheck. He passed the puck to Reilly Smith, who scored his second goal of the game. The Panthers finally turned their game on after that Smith goal. The goal was assisted by Vincent Trocheck and Teddy Purcell. This was Purcell’s first point with the Panthers. Just minutes later, they took the lead again on a Jagr goal that made it through the traffic. The goal was assisted by Jussi Jokinen and Dmitry Kulikov The Jets were still making a huge effort to score, but now, the Panthers could compete with them. The shots on goal were slowly evening out. Ondrej Pavelec left the net with just under two minutes left and the Jets would go 6-on-4 because Erik Gudbranson was sent to the sin bin on an interference call. It didn’t matter though. The Panthers still won this game 3-2.
Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith truly are the dream team. A Trocheck pass allowed Reilly Smith to get the Panthers’ first goal of the night. Reilly Smith also scored the second goal of the night at a crucial moment in the third period. Of course, Trocheck assisted this one as well. Teddy Purcell must also be given credit for the goal because he made huge strides to keep the puck in the zone on that power play. Purcell will certainly fit in with the Cats. As soon as Reilly Smith got his 20th and 21st goals, Jaromir Jagr realized that he no longer led the team in this respect and saw that he had to make a change. Mere minutes after the second Smith goal, Jagr scored to give the Panthers the lead. This would be the game-winning goal, as if Jagr wasn’t already the all-time leader in game winners by a large margin already.
The Panthers will be back at it on Thursday, March 3rd, at 9:00 pm ET in Colorado against the Avalanche. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.