It was quick strike action on Wednesday night in Dallas but in the end the Stars outlasted the Panthers to win it 3-2 in the shootout.
Dallas would strike twice late in the second and looked like they would skate away with the victory in regulation but goals by Drew Shore and Scottie Upshall 14 seconds apart late in the game sent the contest to overtime and eventually the shootout. For Florida, it was their first loss of the pre-season after sweeping their double header against Nashville on Monday but five out of six points is a good start, even if it is the pre-season.
While they don't want to keep falling behind, the Cats have come back in all three games to take points and to Shore, that says a lot.
"We battled back and I think that's important, especially this early on in the year," said Shore following the game. "I think it shows we got a lot of character in that room, I think that, especially in the pre-season I think that's something that's really important."
For the majority of two periods, the teams traded limited chances but the chances they did have were quality. Jacob Markstrom came up with quality saves on Stars forward Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Ray Whitney, Alex Chiasson and Colton Sceviour in the second period alone. Kari Lehtonen and then Cristopher Nilstorp also came up with their saves on Upshall, Scott Gomez, Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson. But with three minutes left in the second stanza, that changed.
The hosts set up a great passing play between Sergei Gonchar, Whitney and Cody Eakin with Eakin set up in the slot and one-timing a low shot past Markstrom. Shore took a penalty 12 seconds later and the Stars capitalized 18 seconds after that. There, Jamie Benn roofed a pass from Seguin past Markstrom's shoulder to increase their lead.
"Any time you're in the box and they score it's never a good feeling, especially that second goal," said Shore.
But Markstrom continued his solid play to keep the Panthers in it despite great chances by the Stars. With 10:30 left to play in the third, Markstrom came up with another big save on Sceviour who found himself all alone in front of the net on a Dallas power play.
Those stops (Markstrom would finish with 28 in all), allowed the Cats to mount a comeback to force overtime.
First it was Shore who took a pass from Brian Campbell, rushed up the side of the ice and went five-hole on Nilstorp with 3:59 on the clock. 14 seconds later, Upshall netted his third of the pre-season, roofing it while driving to the net off a pass from Jesse Winchester. Injured for parts of his first two seasons with the Panthers, the winger mentioned Tuesday about getting off to a good start and feeling good heading into the season.
"It's nice to get things going," said Upshall. "I'm pretty excited about this season. I think we've got a lot of good players, good young guys and it's a good atmosphere.
"I feel good. It's been a good summer. The body is finally getting over the humps and the bumps and bruises. It's a rough game and had some tough luck over the past couple of seasons but just focused on staying positive and doing the right things. Being a good pro and having a good attitude and coming in and try to help these guys be better."
In overtime, Dallas had a great chance to win it as Vincent Trocheck was sent to the box and ended up ringing a shot off the far post after Markstrom got a piece of it. They eventually did win it however as Chiasson and Benn beat Markstrom on shots while Nilstorp denied forward Brad Boyes and Aleksander Barkov.
Playing in two of the first three pre-season games, the Panthers forwards knows about the competition and opportunities there are among the forward ranks to make an impact and claim a spot and playing time on the Panthers to start the season.
"There's opportunity here to take on some more ice time, take on more roles," said Upshall. "Everyone has got to be better. It's going to be a group effort to be a lot better than we were last year and to do things that we did our first year here together as a group."
"As a player, you want to stand out every time you touch the ice and I think that you have to find a way," said Shore. "Different guys play different styles. For me it's being good at both ends of the ice…The main thing you try to do as a player is try and make a difference every time you're out there."
Notes & Stats
Skating together on a line for most of the game along with winger Garrett Wilson, Boyes and Barkov finished as the top two forwards in time on ice. Boyes, on a try out, led the way with 20:20 of ice time while Barkov was 39 seconds behind the winger with 19:41. The No. 2 overall pick had a couple of nice passes and had a chance to win it late in overtime on a rush but the give-and-go with Boyes didn't connect. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov led the way with five shots on net for the Cats while Campbell finished with a game-high 25:50 of ice time.