BRUINS 3, PANTHERS 2 (SO)
The last time the Bruins came to town was the last time the Panthers had any sort of a real homestand. Florida played three games at BankAtlantic Center during Thanksgiving week and lost all of them.
The Panthers run of home games is much longer this time around, although despite Monday's loss, at least they picked up a point in the standings – something they didn't do in November.
As was the case Boston was here during Thanksgiving, Florida took a lead into the third period but watched the Bruins battle back in the final stanza and leave town with a victory. David Krejci scored in midway through the third to tie the score and Blake Wheeler won it in the shootout as Boston pulled off a 3-2 win in front of an announced sellout of 19,250 at BankAtlantic Center.
Wheeler's goal was looked at by Hockey Central in Toronto as it looked like he shot the puck twice before scoring, but coach Pete DeBoer said afterward he thought it was clean and goalie Scott Clemmensen (who made 40 saves in his first start since Dec. 4) said didn't have much of a problem with it. Boston has won all three meetings against the Panthers this season and 10 of the past 15.
“It's tough from the angle we saw, but I looked at it again and think it's the right call,'' said DeBoer, whose team was the last to lose an overtime (3-1) game this season. “We played this team three times and ended with the same result. Our goalie was just as good as [Tim Thomas]. The story was missed opportunities. We had chances to extend a one-goal lead to two; we missed point-blank shots.''
Florida had won two of its past three away from home but now are pretty much home until the end of January. Monday's game kicked off a stretch in which Florida plays at home in 11 of 13 contests with only quick trips to Carolina (Jan. 3) and Washington (Jan. 8) breaking things up.
The Panthers opened the scoring early in the second when David Booth took a feed from Michael Frolik after he stole the puck from Steven Kampfer. Boston wouldn't be down long as Krejci got his first of the game eight minutes later by following up a rebound from Scott Clemmensen that Florida's defense couldn't clear out.
Florida led 2-1 with 4:09 left in the second period as Frolik knocked down a loose puck with his glove along the boards and floated a soft shot toward the net. Mike Santorelli was camped in the slot and reached out and deflected the puck past Tim Thomas. After the play was reviewed in Toronto, it was determined Santorelli did not use a high stick to knock down the puck.
Santorelli, banished to the minors by Nashville last season and traded to the Panthers in the summer for a low draft pick, is now tied with Stephen Weiss for the team lead in goals. Both have 10.
Krejci tied it with a nifty move and backhanded shot past Clemmensen, but the Panthers had ample opportunity to score the go-ahead goal. Marty Reasoner was rejected by Thomas with 7:45 left as he picked the puck up near center ice and came in on a breakaway. Evgeny Dadonov was also stoned cold by Thomas.
Dennis Wideman, who came to Florida from Boston in the Nathan Horton deal last June, also had a great chance but missed the net with two minutes remaining.
Thomas was spectacular at times as he stopped 12 shots in the third and 32 total. Florida shot first in the shootout, with Santorelli, Weiss and Dadonov being stopped – meaning Boston only had to shoot twice as Wheeler's goal came on the second shot.
“He's a world-class goalie and was great tonight,'' Santorelli said of Thomas. “We played well but need to keep moving forward, getting better.''
The Panthers are well represented at the world junior championships being held in Buffalo through Jan. 5 – and Florida's players had big roles in two wins on Sunday's opening night.
Center Nick Bjugstad led Team USA to a 3-2 win over Finland as he scored in overtime. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson helped lead Canada to an opening round win over Russia. Quinton Howden, Florida's third first-round pick in 2010, had an assist. Bjugstad has a few more years of playing at Minnesota before he starts competing for a job with the Panthers, but Gudbranson is expected to make the 2011-12 team after seemingly making the team out of camp this past September.
“The future is bright. There's a lot of good talent there,'' said DeBoer, who was an assistant on Canada's world junior gold medal team in 2005. “These guys just aren't there; they are big parts of their teams. .-.-. They are still a few years away from being Panthers or good players in the NHL. But it's a start. You can tell they are going to be very good players but we have to be patient with them.''
-- With the upper-deck tarps removed for the first time this season, the Panthers drew their first sellout of the year on Monday. Their second is expected Friday when Montreal makes its annual New Year's Eve visit.
-- The Panthers dimmed the lights and turned off the scoreboard as the team held a moment of silence for Neil Rogers prior to Monday's game. Rogers, a popular South Florida talk show host for three decades, was a Panthers season ticket holder and longtime promoter of the game of hockey. Rogers died from congestive heart failure on Dec. 24.
Florida Panthers lose first OT Game: Boston Bruins win 3-2 in SO ... First Sellout of Season in Sunrise
BRUINS 3, PANTHERS 2 (SO)