Dan Spiegel: Shootout For The Ages

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I’m sure someone will figure out what the odds were of the Florida Panthers scoring 5 times to keep the shootout going against the Washington Capitals Tuesday night, but as Panthers play-by-play announcer Steve Goldstein said, it was probably a million to one.

Making this 2-1 shootout win even more remarkable after an NHL-record 20 rounds is the cast of characters that kept beating Caps goalie Braden Holtby when the Panthers looked as if they were about to leave another heartbreaking point on the table after a solid game.

You’d expect Jussi Jokinen to have the skill he showed in the 4th round to stave off a loss, but Dave Bolland in the 7th, Derek Mackenzie in the 10th, Sean Bergenheim in the 11th, and Dylan frickin Olsen in the 17th rounds were absolutely clutch. Olsen had never taken a shot in a shootout in his career.

Nick Bjugstad is simply emerging as a superstar, and it was only fitting after going through each team’s full roster one time that the game would be decided on his stick. He said he had only tried his game-winning move in practice before tonight. He might want add that to his growing arsenal.

There are a lot of fans and players that hate the shootout. To settle a hard-fought game with what is widely considered as an exhibition competition has merit. But for everyone involved this shootout was not only thrilling to watch, but one that we may never see again. Not only because of the record length, but also because of how many goals were scored to keep it going. The Panthers’ 6 shootout goals are now an NHL record as well.

In a game that had a playoff feel throughout, both the Capitals and Panthers played a tough, gritty game. Aleksander Barkov returned from a hand injury just in time to be instrumental in shutting down Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin for the most part. While Barkov is still trying to find his offensive game, one of the big pluses when he was drafted was his polished two-way game. It was on full display in this contest.

Roberto Luongo was who he’s been all year. He made timely saves throughout the game and left it all out on the ice in the shootout against a very skilled team.

While it’s early, the Panthers still hold onto the 8th playoff spot while the Caps dropped to 9th after tonight. It is no secret the Panthers have had trouble with Washington for many years, so this win is very gratifying.

The Panthers now head out for two games against the Flyers and Penguins before coming home for their traditional Christmas week against northern teams that will pack the house. Because of their solid play, those games are going to mean a lot more than in years past, and should continue to show that these are not the same old Florida Panthers.

Dan Spiegel…

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