|Center John Madden scores his first goal as a Panther against Boston on Thursday night in the second period.
Probably lost in the shuffle of Thursday night's dominating 6-2 victory over the Bruins to Panthers fans was a goal late in the second period. But to the Panthers coaches and players, the goal was huge.
Stealing the puck from former Panther Gregory Campbell just inside the Bruins blue line while keeping the puck in, John Madden
started the play and would end it later as he flipped the puck over Tim Thomas, giving Florida a 4-1 lead.
A relieved Madden punched the glass in celebration. The Panthers center finally netted his elusive first goal with the club in his 20th game.
"It felt great. It was a big game but just to score finally," said Madden. "I had a lot of good chances previously in games leading up so it's good to get it off the back and move forward."
"Actually I told him it was about time he scored," quipped forward Stephen Weiss
following the game on Madden's goal.
The players and staff could joke about how long it took Madden to score his first goal with the club, but for Madden the goal was a huge. The 38-year old, who signed with the team back on January 4th, has been in and out of the lineup as he has gotten himself back in playing shape after last playing with Minnesota in April.
"I was happy to see Mads get one there," said head coach Kevin Dineen. "I think he's put a lot of effort in to getting back into playing condition right now and that was certainly a big goal and I think there was a lot of happy teammates for him as well."
"It's awesome," said Weiss. "To see a guy like that come in and practice hard the way he's been practicing, in and out of the lineup, a guy that's done what he's done in this league.
"Great to see."
Madden was signed to bring a veteran presence as the Panthers were riddled with injuries. And now with the regular season winding down, he's looked at for his playoff success. The 38-year old has three Stanley Cup championships to his credit and appeared in ten consecutive postseasons prior to last season. He has recorded 43 points in 134 postseason games.
The center thrives on hockey down the stretch as the games mean more.
"These games are so crucial to everybody for that matter," said Madden. "It's not going to change. It doesn't matter if you're the New York Rangers at the top right now, you want to stay there so you have to consistency going or you're us or you're Buffalo climbing your way back up.
"All of the games are big. We have to keep building and looking towards playoff hockey and we have got to start now."
The second period goal will hopefully help get the Panthers fourth-line center going (346 points in 887 career games) as well as the rest of the team onto their ultimate goal: the playoffs. But as the Panthers make their push hopefully up the standings, they know they have to take it one game at a time, starting against Buffalo on Saturday.
"We're just believing in ourselves and moving forward," said Madden. "Regardless of what the rest of the league does. If we get some help here or there that's great but for the most part we're concentrating on what we can control and that's our next game."