After a horrible performance Friday at home against Pittsburgh, the Panthers desperately needed a strong game against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Monday.
Despite taking a defeat in the standings, the Panthers did just that as they more than held their own against visiting Boston in a 3-2 shootout loss in front of an announced 19,018 at BankAtlantic Center.
With the point gained in the standings, Florida once again took sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division over idle Washington.
“That was a good hockey game, a fun game to be a part of,'' said Stephen Weiss, who became the Panthers all-time leader with 232 assists after helping on Shawn Matthias' game-tying goal in the second.
“We would have liked to come out on the other side, but if we play like that, we're going to have success. We needed to bounce back and have a better effort than the last time out. We had a few chances to win it. It just wasn't meant to be.''
Said coach Kevin Dineen: “I liked the response after a pretty average game against Pittsburgh. We knew the game would have a little bit of testosterone to it. Unfortunately for us, we couldn't score that final score or get the final save.''
One negative from Monday's game: Defenseman Ed Jovanovski could miss some substantial time after injuring his hand during a first period fight.
Jovanovski had his hand wrapped up after the game but wouldn't confirm whether the hand was broken or not. He's expected to see a surgeon on Tuesday.
Another negative is Florida's continued struggle in shootouts. Florida has won just two of seven shootouts this season – all on home ice – as Monday's went four rounds.
After going scoreless through two rounds, Stephen Weiss scored to give the Panthers a short-lived lead as Patrice Bergeron (who scored Boston's two regulation goals) followed suit. Boston won it in Round 4 when David Krejci beat Scott Clemmensen.
“We need efforts like that on a consistent basis to win in this league,'' said Clemmensen, who made 33 saves. Boston scored on its initial shot of the night. “We were right there.''
Florida played a strong first period yet trailed 1-0, then scored twice in the second with Jason Garrison tying the score at 1 with another of his patented bombs from way out that worked past Tuukka Rask (38 saves).
Matthias was stopped by Rask on a first period breakaway yet came back in the second with one, beating the Boston goalie – who shutout the Panthers 8-0 on Dec. 23 at the Garden) – by squeezing the puck through his skates.
“The good thing was I knew where to go the second time,'' said Matthias. “That was a big goal for us. .-.-. This was good for the confidence. They're a great team, been killing some of the best teams by scores like 6-0. And you saw what they did to us the last time. We have to take the positives and build from there.''
Florida had numerous chances in the third period to take the lead, with Michal Repik getting stopped on a breakaway with 1:01 left. The Panthers had a power play in overtime but couldn't connect as Kris Versteeg was stopped on a prime chance. Versteeg was also stopped with 15 seconds remaining.
-- Jose Theodore continues to work his way back from a knee injury suffered Dec. 31 against the Canadiens but didn't dress for Monday's game against the Bruins.
Dineen said Theodore will be on Florida's upcoming road trip and he expects Theodore to play this week.
-- Florida had four of their injured forwards on the ice Monday and Dineen said all four are close enough to coming back that he's now considering making lineup changes once they are officially cleared by medical staff.
Marco Sturm (concussion) joined Jack Skille (shoulder), Scottie Upshall (hip) and Sean Bergenheim (groin) at the morning skate.
With so many players looking to come back, general manager Dale Tallon has some decisions to make. Florida is only allowed to carry 23 players on its active roster and are at 21. Michal Repik has played well, but could be headed back to the minors.
Keaton Ellerby, who hasn't played since Dec. 23, will likely replace Jovanovski.
-- The Panthers held a moment of silence before Monday's game to honor fallen Pompano Beach firefighter Bill Elliott Jr. Elliott, 49, died on Jan. 6 after falling during a ladder drill.