Florida Panthers Facebook Florida Panthers Twitter Florida Panthers Google+ Florida Panthers Pintrest Florida Panthers Instagram Florida Panthers
From The Press Box


From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

Have a question for Alain? Be sure to ask him through twitter @apoupartFins.


Gold Medal Performance

The Panthers played one of their best games of the season in routing Toronto with two more games left before the Olympic break

Wednesday, 02.5.2014 / 3:45 PM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
X
Share with your Friends


Gold Medal Performance
The Panthers played one of their best games of the season in routing Toronto with two more games left before the Olympic break
The Panthers celebrate their 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at the BB&T Center on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

The Panthers have two games left before they join the rest of the National Hockey League in taking a break and stepping aside for the 2014 Winter Games, two games to capture what head coach Peter Horachek described as a best-of-seven series.

Horachek compared the last two weeks before the Olympic break to a playoff series, and the Panthers still have a chance to win that “series” thanks to their tremendous performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at the BB&T Center. More important than ending up with a winning record in their final seven pre-break games for the Panthers, of course, is continuing to make a push toward the final spots of the playoffs.

As defenseman Brian Campbell pointed out after the game Tuesday, the Panthers have some work to do in that department. But they also showed against Toronto, as they had before against Colorado, Pittsburgh (twice) and Anaheim, among others, that they’re capable of beating any team in the league.

The game against the Maple Leafs, who came in with a 9-1-1 record in their previous 11 games, actually might have been the Panthers’ best performance of the season. If it wasn’t, it clearly ranks right near the top.

After the morning skate, captain Ed Jovanovski said in no uncertain terms that the Panthers needed to play with an attitude, play as though they were ticked off. “Jovo” certainly got his wish.

Sean Bergenheim set the tone early by hitting everything that moved in the first period. And then in the second period, Jonathan Huberdeau got into a fight with Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner. Yes, Jonathan Huberdeau.

It was the talented forward’s first NHL fight and it was more proof that the Panthers weren’t going to back down.

The Panthers kept coming at the Maple Leafs and ended up with a season-high 48 shots and an overwhelming 48-21 shot advantage. The final score would have been a lot more lopsided if not for Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier and some bad luck by Erik Gudbranson.

Among Bernier’s 44 saves were breakaways by Huberdeau and Scottie Upshall. Gudbranson, meanwhile, hit the crossbar once and the post on another occasion.

Horachek made a couple of lineup changes for that game, and all four lines contributed. Huberdeau, who continues to show signs of breaking out of a difficult stretch, skated with Nick Bjugstad and Upshall. Meanwhile, the newly assembled line of Shawn Matthias, Scott Gomez and Jesse Winchester had two of the Panthers’ four goals as each forward picked up a point in the victory.

Given how well they played, it would not be a surprise if Horachek kept those same four lines intact for the game Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings at the BB&T Center. That will be followed by a road game Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Panthers won’t play after that until Feb. 27 when they host the Washington Capitals at the BB&T Center. Those last two games are huge for the Panthers because every game is important, particularly those against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Panthers will be hard-pressed to duplicate the kind of performance they put on against Toronto, but the reality is they’ll need to play superior hockey on a consistent basis to get back into the playoff picture — Thursday, Friday and the rest of the season.

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
FloridaPanthers.com is the official Web site of the Florida Panthers. Florida Panthers and floridapanthers.com are trademarks of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd.
NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks and NHL Draft name and logo are trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as a
ll other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.