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2 posts from January 14, 2014

January 14, 2014

ON AN ISLAND: Panthers Build Lead, Beat Islanders 4-2 ... Tim Thomas Makes 31 Saves in Win

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

It didn't take long for the Panthers to extinguish the hottest road team in hockey Tuesday night.

Aleksander Barkov scored 32 seconds in and Florida scored three in the opening period en route to a 4-2 win over the Islanders at BB&T Center.

The Panthers hadn't scored more than one goal in any of their previous three games before halting the Islanders' run of seven straight road wins.

Before the game, coach Peter Horachek vowed his team would start scoring. The Panthers proved him right.

"We got goals from all different lines,'' said Nick Bjugstad, who made it 3-0 near the end of the third.

"A lot of guys came through. It was good to see. We bore down.''

The Islanders, who hadn't lost away from Long Island since Dec. 12 in Arizona, looked road weary in the first period as soft clearing passes and poor puck handling helped lead to Florida's quick start.

On the game's opening shift, Barkov and Brad Boyes alternated passes up the ice with Barkov finally sending the puck into the empty net as Kevin Poulin committed to Boyes.

The Islanders, in the middle of a six-game trip, woke up as the period wore on only to find Tim Thomas waiting for them. The Panthers goalie made a number of key saves as he waited for the Florida offense to add support.

With 4:26 left in the first, the Panthers took a 2-0 lead as Drew Shore spun in the right circle and threw up a shot that banged off Brian Strait's skate. Bjugstad then made it 3-0 by driving in and scoring off another New York turnover. Bjugstad ended up being thrown into the goal.

"I just tried going to the net,'' Bjugstad said. "It's part of the game.''

The Islanders came hard at the Panthers in the second but Thomas (31 saves) was strong again. Florida made it 4-0 when Scottie Upshall steamrolled Andrew MacDonald to steal the puck and scored on the breakaway.

Upshall's goal -- his first in 16 games -- came as Florida was killing off a penalty.

"It was a big play by our defenseman [Ed Jovanovski and Brian Campbell] down low,'' Upshall said. "We were able to play with the lead and that's a big confidence booster. I think all four lines were great. It was a big effort from everyone.''

New York, which didn't get much from leading scorer John Tavares, cut its deficit to three late in the second just as its third power play ended as Colin McDonald scored in front of the net. Early in the third, Thomas Vanek -- a potential Florida target this offseason -- made it 4-2.

Although the Islanders kept coming, Thomas kept the puck out.

"Timmie keeps us in it every time,'' Bjugstad said. "It's nice having a tender like that.''


The Panthers announced they will host the NHL Draft next summer. The first round is expected to be held on June 26, 2015, with the following rounds on June 27.

"I think that's something that is going to build and build and build,'' Horachek said. "I don't think most people knew it was coming before it was announced. I think it's a great thing, great for South Florida, our team and this building. It will be exciting.''

Team president Michael Yormark said the team is working on bringing more such events to the Broward County-owned (but team run) arena.

The NHL promised the county a draft and future All-Star Game last summer in exchange for the commission approving a new scoreboard. Yormark said the BB&T Center has an agreement to continue hosting the Orange Bowl college basketball tournament and the arena is looking into NCAA men's basketball tournaments.

-- Although Upshall scored shorthanded, the Panthers weren't as good with an extra skater as their last-place power play went 0-for-5 and hasn't scored in seven games.

Florida had numerous chances but couldn't score on an long 5-on-3 opportunity in the first nor a four-minute power play in the third.


BIG-TIME GOAL: Cypress Bay's Jake Levy Makes SportsCenter with Help from Jake Winderman

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Cypress Bay High in Weston is best known for its football team, but on Monday, the Lightning's hockey team got national recognition when a video clip of Jake Levy was selected as ESPN's play of the day on SportsCenter.

Levy's slick penalty shot, in which he worked the puck between his legs before shooting high on the Flanagan goalie, would be the envy of some Florida Panthers.

For ESPN to notice a video highlight of a high school player from South Florida takes some work.

Jake Winderman, a Cypress Bay senior, caught the goal on video and knew he had something special.

Winderman, the son of long-time Sun-Sentinel NBA writer Ira, raced home and uploaded the video to his YouTube account. Then he sent a tweet to ESPN's John Buccigross alerting him to the play. He also sent a tweet to Steve Levy, who was hosting SportsCenter that night.

A producer at ESPN noticed it and asked Winderman for permission to use the footage. Stuart Scott gave the commentary.

"It was really cool, really exhilarating to see something I filmed and produced made it on a top network like that,'' Winderman said.

Levy was expected to be a guest of the Panthers at Tuesday night's game; Ira and Jake Winderman also planned to attend.

"I think it's great, brings attention to the area,'' Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "It's good to have young players have that opportunity.''