Erik Gudbranson was angry. He knew the Panthers left a point on the table during their overtime loss to Arizona last Saturday, and a few of his own mistakes were a part of the problem. He couldn’t wait to play the Coyotes again and said he wanted that same team to show up in South Florida Thursday night for redemption.
He got it, and the Panthers prevailed.
A game settled by the same 2-1 score went the Panthers way this time, in regulation, due to an amazing goal from Scottie Upshall in the third period. Upshall had just left the box as Florida killed off a crucial penalty. Tomas Kopecky hit him in stride and Upshall scored on a beautiful backhand through the 5 hole of Mike Smith, putting the Panthers ahead for good.
The affair was certainly chippy, and the intensity from the Panthers was clear from the get go. They were determined to make amends for giving away the game with poor discipline and missed chances in Arizona.
Roberto Luongo was sensational once again, stopping 32 of 33 shots and improving his record to 3-2-2 for the year. The Panthers have points in their last 5 games. The Panthers and Hurricanes have only played 8 games thus far, which is the fewest in the league. As Florida catches up to the rest of the league over the next week, it will be interesting to see where they end up in the division and conference. After a rough start to the season the Panthers could experience quite the turnaround come next weekend.
Unfortunately all is not rosy.
Arguably Florida’s best offensive player, Brandon Pirri, suffered a concussion on a high/questionable hit from Keith Yandle in the third period. Pirri had scored in three consecutive games and he will be out at least a week. Dave Bolland continues to nurse a lower body injury(surprise). Sean Bergenheim and Aleksander Barkov are also now day-to-day with injuries, forcing call ups from San Antonio as a precaution.
The good news is those call ups are Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi. Trocheck played very well in his rookie season last year in limited time, and Grimaldi may have the chance to make his NHL debut. Jimmy Hayes will likely be the first player added to the lineup, and depending on the severity of the other injuries will determine whether Trocheck and/or Grimaldi see the ice at all.
The Panthers end their short 2-game homestand tomorrow against the Flyers before they head out for a brief road trip to Boston and Philadelphia. As the players keep settling in to Gerard Gallant’s systems, it is clear once the offense starts clicking this team is going to be in good shape moving forward.
But that is the key word…”if.”
Luongo can only steal the show so many times before he’ll need some support. If he gets it, the Panthers could be in the top half of the league in terms of points by the end of November. That did not seem realistic after the first three games of the season.
This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.