Ladies and gentlemen, the Florida Panthers are for real. Now alone in first place in the Eastern Conference, Head Coach Kevin Dineen’s bunch just continues to prove the hoards who doubted his team completely wrong. The Panthers came through with a huge win on Monday over the division rival Washington Capitals. However, the South Beach Cats did not stop there. Thursday night the Panthers made an emphatic statement.
It was with only 2:32 remaining in the third period that former Chicago Blackhawk Tomas Kopecky would knock home a rebound after an end-to-end rush by Shawn Matthias to break a scoreless tie that would lead the Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Knocking off the defending champion Bruins, a team that had won fourteen of it’s previous sixteen games, in their own barn is certainly something for any team to be proud of, especially a team of up-and-comers like Florida.
“We said before the game it’s going to be a big test and we want to prove to everyone we are for real and we did that tonight.” – Marco Sturm
It was then that former Bruins draft choice Kris Versteeg who would drive the stake through the heart of Boston fans when he out-raced Dennis Seidenberg to a loose puck in the B’s zone and back-handed it into an empty net to seal the Panthers’ victory in their past games.
Thursday night’s contest was the truest definition of a goaltending duel if there ever was one. Throughout the first two periods and for most of the third, both offenses were completely neutralized by the opponent’s netminder. The spectacular efforts from Tim Thomas and Jose Theodore – who combined to make 68 saves on the night – were enough to thwart numerous quality scoring chances on both ends of the ice. Florida’s veteran goaltender Jose Theodore – who has performed well historically against the Black and Gold, dating back to his days with the Montreal Canadiens – was the clear-cut number one star on Thursday, something his head coach clearly took notice of.
“Goaltending was stellar tonight. It was really impressive. We made numerous quality saves.” — Kevin Dineen
Thursday night was a coming out party for the Panthers, who proved to both the Bruins and the rest of the National Hockey League, that they are not the push-overs that they once were, something B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuk took note of:
“They are just a different team than we have seen in the past. Their forwards are really fast and their D do a good job of moving into them. Their work ethic is a lot better than it has been in previous years.” – Johnny Boychuk
Posting 36 points in 28 games this season, knocking off perennial cup-contending teams like Washington and Boston, and taking complete control of the Southeast division, the Florida Panthers have sent a direct message to the the rest of the Eastern Conference: They are for real.
From The Room:
Milan Lucic (BOS)
Marco Sturm (FLA)
Goals– FLA (2) BOS (0)
Shots– FLA (30) BOS (40)
Power-Play– FLA (0-1) BOS(0-4)
Penalty-Kill– FLA (4-4) BOS (1-1)
- Three Stars– ….. 3.) Tomas Kopecky….. 2.) Tim Thomas….. 1.) Jose Theodore
The B’s will once again take to the road, as they prepare for a Saturday night contest against Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. This will be the second meeting of the season for these two clubs. Back on October 17, the Bruins held off Columbus in a shootout to win the game 2-1. It’s a quick turnaround for the Panthers as they will travel up to Buffalo for a Friday evening game against the Buffalo Sabres.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.