Hard work finally paid off for the Panthers.
Fighting hard but trailing in the third period in the last three games of their recent road trip, the Panthers couldn't find a way to get the equalizer. On Thursday night, they found themselves trailing not once but twice and still kept fighting to tie the game and eventually win in the shootout 5-4 over Buffalo.
Down 3-2 heading into the third, it was Shawn Matthias crashing the net and scoring his second of the night off a rebound. Then after a Marcus Foligno power play redirect put the visitors up, it was Jonathan Huberdeau answering with a power play tally of his own with less than 10 minutes to play in the game to tie it at four as he scored in front of the net off a feed from Peter Mueller.
A win like that can certainly do a lot for the team confidence, even if it's late in the season. For Florida, it was their second victory of the season after trailing heading into the third period.
"I thought we did a good job. That's something that our team needed and something all successful teams have," said Dineen following an optional practice at Saveology.com Iceplex on Friday. "Not so much worried about the outcome, but just sticking with it, staying with the process and knowing that the reward can follow a lot of work and when it does, there's satisfaction in that room."
If your hard work isn’t rewarded, a team might get down. But when it finally is, the atmosphere is obviously much different.
"When we battled back, it really shows our character," said Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. "(It was) just a good feeling in the locker room after the win and coming in the next day with a happy feeling, smile on your face,
“I think that does a lot to our confidence, feeling good going into the next game."
“We let up for a bit but we definitely came together in the third period,” said Matthias. “We battled extremely hard. I mean it looked pretty bad for a bit but we came back and played our hearts out and it was a good win.”
Forward Mike Santorelli capped off the win as he beat Sabres netminder Ryan Miller with a pretty deke and shot to win it in the fourth round.
"The last couple of games, we played well," said Santorelli. "We had a little bit of spurts where it didn't go so well. It was good to come back and finish it off.”
While the good feelings on the come back victory were present following the game and in the locker room on Friday, the team knows that they did have a two goal cushion and they shouldn’t have had to make two separate third period comeback attempts.
"I think first of all, we should maintain our lead," said Kulikov. "If we have a 2-0 lead, we should keep playing the way we've been playing like when we got that lead. We can't let off and have teams score and take momentum back. We have to keep pushing."
DINEEN ON JOVANOVSKI
A day after Panthers General Manager announced that captain Ed Jovanovski would undergo season-ending hip surgery, Dineen spoke about the loss of his captain.
"It's a little bit of a pile on of what the story we've told too many times this year," said Dineen. "We move forward but your captain is always important piece of the puzzle so he'll be missed."
Jovanovski was limited to just six games on the season in his first year with the 'C'.
ROSTER MOVES, RETURN OF PARROS?
Following practice, the Panthers sent defensemen Colby Robak and Mike Caruso to their AHL affiliate San Antonio for more playing time. Robak was a healthy scratch on Thursday night while Caruso looks to be finally healthy after missing the last 32 games due to an upper body injury.
For Caruso, it's a chance to finally get back and play hockey after what had to seem like forever ago since he played in his second NHL game in Montreal on Jan. 22.
"Caruso is very encouraging," said Dineen. "There's a decent chance he'll play some hockey this weekend."
The Panthers enforcer, George Parros could return to the lineup Saturday night as he skated once again in the optional practice Friday.
"Decent chance he'll be back in the swing of things," said Dineen.
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