Mike Matheson's first goal of the season was a big one, as the defenseman's overtime score lifted the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Monday night.
"I think it's huge for us," said Matheson, who had no goals and seven assists heading into tonight's matchup. "Whenever you go on a long trip like that, it seems like when you win the first game it just gets you off on the right foot and really creates some momentum going into the rest of the road trip."
With an extra point on the line, Matheson poked the puck away from Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou midway through overtime and chased it up the right side of the ice. After gaining control of the loose puck, he skated towards the net, but was denied by Jimmy Howard's right pad on his scoring first attempt.
"I was pretty frustrated with myself for a second when I didn't put it in the first time," Matheson cracked after the game.
After the initial miss, Nick Bjugstad jammed the rebound back towards Howard, with the loose puck eventually find its way onto Matheson's stick and into the net.
"In overtime 3-on-3, his speed and his feet are so good," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Matheson. "He hadn't scored yet, so it was nice to see. I thought he played a heck of a game."
Florida (12-14-4) continue its five-game road trip on Tuesday in Chicago.
Video: FLA@DET: Matheson cleans up rebound for OT winner
Here are five takeaways from Monday's win in Detroit…
1. TROCHECK STILL STREAKING
If Vincent Trocheck played all 82 games in Detroit, there's a good chance he'd win the Art Ross Trophy every year. The Panthers center notched his team-leading 13th goal of the season on Monday night, scoring on the power play to make it a 1-1 game at 10:09 of the third period. "Huby [Jonathan Huberdeau] made an unbelievable pass backdoor," said Trocheck, who has posted eight points (3-5-8) over his current five-game point streak. "He knew I was there from his stomach. I just had to put it in the empty net." A two-time champion with the famed Little Caesars AAA team, Trocheck has since grown into Detroit's worst nightmare, recording 12 points (7-5-12) in 13 games against Red Wings - his most against any opponent.
2. BARKOV BIG IN RETURN
After sitting out one game while recovering from an upper-body injury, Panthers center Aleksander Barkov looked no worse for wear while logging some monster minutes on Monday. In addition to assisting on Trocheck's game-tying tally, he led all Panthers forwards in total ice time (23:36) and ranked second in faceoff wins (11). However, in a tight, one-goal game, Barkov's greatest contributions actually came on the defensive side of the puck. How much of a difference does Barkov make on defense? Well, he spent the majority of the game matched up against Detroit's third line of Darren Helm, Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening, holding the trio to a combined three shots on goal.
3. REIMER REBOUNDS
In what was easily one of his best performances of the season, Panthers goalie James Reimer stopped 34 of 35 to earn a well-deserved victory on Monday night. After a soft goal helped the Red Wings get on the board early, Reimer spent the rest of the evening adding save after save to his personal highlight reel, including several clutch breakaway denials. "He was pretty determined to have a bounce-back game," Boughner said of Reimer. "He came in today and you could tell right from morning skate he was focused." Filling in for injured starter Roberto Luongo, Reimer is now 3-1-2 in his last six starts.
Video: FLA@DET: Reimer flashes the leather to rob Larkin
4. FIGHT NIGHT IN MOTOWN
Red Wings forward Luke Witkowski returned to the ice on Monday night after serving a 10-game suspension for his part in an altercation against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 15. How did he spend his first game out of the NHL's version of time out? Well, you guessed it: more fighting. Witkowski went toe-to-toe twice with Panthers enforcer Micheal Haley before tonight's game had even reached the third period. The first brawl was a run-of-the-mill scrap between two players trying to fire up their respective teams, with Haley coming out on top. The second broke out after Haley took exception to a high hit that Witkowski had delivered on Colton Sceviour. In that tussle, both players got in a few good punches, so we'll call that one a draw. Haley, who is in his first season with the Panthers, leads the league with nine fights this season.
5. ZETTERBERG WAKES UP
Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg shook off the cobwebs on Monday night, breaking out of a very long slump to score Detroit's first goal of the contest. After registering four goals in seven games to start the season, the Red Wings captain had gone 23 games without lighting the lamp before tonight. Zetterberg's slump-busting tally was also the result of quite the individual effort. Taking the puck up ice from his own blue line, the 37-year-old entered Florida's zone with plenty of speed and fired, his initial shot blocked by defenseman Mike Matheson. Keeping his composure, he collected the blocked puck and fired again, cashing in on his second opportunity with a wrist shot that beat Reimer at 18:27 of the first period.
To see Zetterberg's goal, click HERE.