The Panthers capped off the 2016 calendar year in the best way possible.
With some new-look lines and a 4-game losing streak, the Panthers came into Dallas looking for 2 points as the division-rival Bruins won earlier in the day to temporarily strengthen their hold on 3rd place.
It wouldn’t last long as in the 1st period alone, Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, and Jaromir Jagr each scored on 22 total shots to eventually seal the deal for the rest of the game. The last 2 goals came on the power play which converted on both of the opportunities it had, while the penalty kill allowed the Stars’ lone goal on 4 consecutive chances with the man-advantage.
“I was never overly concerned about the power play,” said coach Tom Rowe. “I know it didn’t look good in the stats, but you could see it coming. When you have the players we have and the skill we have, they’re gonna be able to move [the puck] around; it was only a matter of time before it starting going in.”
Making his second consecutive start after a solid performance on Thursday, goaltender James Reimer was a wall in Dallas on Saturday night making 35 saves on 36 shots, including all 30 of the shots he faced at even strength.
“They worked hard, but I thought our teammates battled hard [too],” said Reimer. “[Dallas] got pretty much no second chances, and as a goalie, you try to stop the first one and your teammates take care of the rest. They did an excellent job tonight.”
In his last 8 games, Reimer boasts an impressive 0.935 save percentage which is good for 3rd-best in the NHL since November 20th, and removing his season-worst 6 goals against on November 17th gives him an admirable 0.924 mark on the season.
Reimer made several key saves early and, including a one-timer from the slot by Tyler Seguin in the 2nd period and a redirection from the low slot by Devin Shore. A bulk of his workload was handled in the 3rd period as he stopped all 20 shots faced in the frame.
With Aleksander Barkov out of the lineup for the second consecutive game – and for at least 1 week or two more as the result of an undisclosed injury – Vincent Trocheck took his spot on the top line with waiver-wire pickup Seth Griffith and the future Hall-Of-Famer in Jaromir Jagr.
Colton Sceviour did not travel with the Panthers to Dallas to face his former team after suffering a minor shoulder injury on Thursday.
The trio clicked for the game’s first goal just 3:06 into the opening period as Trocheck put a rebound into the wide open net after Jagr took a shot. About 12 minutes later, Jussi Jokinen sniped the puck top shelf on Antti Niemi just 14 seconds into the Panthers’ first power play of the game.
Niemi was chased from the game and replaced by Kari Lehtonen after Jagr recorded his 756th career NHL goal with a 5-hole shot from the right face-off circle on the next power play just over a minute later.
Patrick Eaves scored for Dallas on the power play in the 2nd period off a puck that bounced around the low slot before landing on his stick. The goal was part of a valiant effort by the Stars to get back into the game in the final 2 frames during which the Panthers were unable to match their shot total from the 1st period.
“The guys were great,” said coach Tom Rowe. “We talked about playing a real simple game, more north-south, chip pucks in, chip them out when the plays aren’t there. The guys couldn’t have done it any better, I’m happy for them.”
After this one game on the road, the Panthers return home to face the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday at the BB&T Center. The Jets have lost 2 in a row during which they’ve allowed 5 and 6 goals to the Blue Jackets and Islanders respectively. Winnipeg will face the Lightning on Tuesday before traveling down to South Florida to meet the Panthers.
The Panthers lost to the Jets 4-3 in a shootout on December 15th with goals coming from Barkov, Smith, and Trocheck and a 29-save effort by Roberto Luongo.