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Cats Earn Point in OT vs. Pens

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Jesse Agler's post-game report:

First nine minutes or so of the third period were non-stop, end-to-end minutes. Great action. This kind of hockey is a ton of fun to watch and usually results in a goal or two, but not tonight, as Thibault, and especially Belfour are making save after save to keep us stuck at 1-1.

Now under seven minutes left and Belfour continues to amaze. He is quickly becoming the story of the night, though I suppose whoever scores the next goal will end up as the headliner...but the Eagle deserves plenty of credit.

Well, its overtime now...and for the third straight game, the Panthers will play beyond the third period. Panthers begin the OT short handed, as Gary Roberts is still serving the remainder of his delay of game penalty.

Panthers kill off the penalty but that's as good as it would get...a turnover lead to a 2-on-1 break and Colby Armstrong netted the game winner: 2-1 Pens in OT.

We are back Saturday night for the Bruins final visit of the year here in Sunrise. Game time 730, we'll be on the air beginning at 6 with Panthers
Weekend Edition. Hope everyone enjoyed this game, look forward to seeing you here at the arena on Saturday.

--Jesse


Jesse Agler's 2nd Intermission Blog:

Panthers enter the 2nd period down a goal but get a good chance early as Dominic Moore is called for cross-checking, giving the Cats their second PP of the night.

No goal with the extra man, but some sustained pressure from the Panthers and now even after the advantage is over, still some great chances for
Florida...but still not able to get one past Thibault.

About midway through the period, shots now 18-18 as the Cats have 11-5 advantage so far.

Crosby and Mark Recchi a 2-on-1 break but again Belfour comes up huge. Eddie having a great game so far and keeping the Panthers in it in a big way.

Sid the Kid draws another penalty—this time on Stephen Weiss, and another power play for Pittsburgh. Cats did a great job killing it off and seemed to have more offensive chances than then Pens, despite being down a man.

With just over two minutes left, the Panthers are continuing to press—this time it's Chris Gratton making plays...after another chance, he sets up Juraj Kolnik who was cutting to the net, and it was deflected in for Kolnik's seventh of the year and we start all over, 1-1.

Panthers nearly took the lead just moments later as they were all over Thibault and the Penguins. Couldn't push one through, but Erik Christensen
cross-checked Greg Campbell and the Panthers go back on the power play, now trying to take the lead.

Cats don't get anything before the period expires, but still 23 seconds of power play to start the third for the Cats. We are 1-1 after two periods and should have a highly exciting conclusion coming up in the third. I'll be
back after the game with more...don't go anywhere.

--Jesse

Jesse Agler's First Intermission Blog:

Plenty of excitement in the opening minutes, as Sidney Crosby had a couple of pseudo-breakaway chances, both of which were stopped by Ed Belfour.

A particularly potent Penguin power play attack got its first chance less than five minutes into the game, as Alexi Semenov was sent off for high-sticking.

Not only did the Panthers do a great job of killing off the penalty, but even got a break going the other way that resulted in a Sergei Gonchar holding call. After a few seconds of 4-on-4, Cats get their first chancewith the extra man. Panthers did not convert, but not for lack of chance. Even with some Pittsburgh pressure, the Cats had a 3-on-1 breakaway and couldn't close the deal. Despite the fact that the Panthers didn't convert, good to see the scoring chances.

Midway through the period, both Belfour and Pens' goalie Jocelyn Thibault have made some stellar saves and the action has been pretty non-stop, very reminiscent of the last couple of games vs. Tampa Bay.

Sloppy turnover gave the puck to the Penguins' Michel Ouellet right in front of the net, but luckily his shot went wide and we're still scoreless.

Another Penguin power play after Bryan Allen is called for tripping. Sidney Crosby was moving towards the net, Allen stood him up and was sent off on what looked like a clean play. To make matters worse, with a full 1:14 left on the penalty, Ruslan Salei cross-checked Evgeni Malkin and was called for it—setting up a 5-on-3 Pittsburgh advantage. Didn't take long for the Pens to capitalize—a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.

Panthers killed off the other penalty but couldn't seem to buy a clear and nearly gave up another goal before finally getting the puck out of the zone. Since the penalties started flowing like beer sales at a Steelers game, the Pens have predictably dominated the flow of play and are now outshooting the Cats 13-7 and taking the last eight shots of the period.

Fun 20 minutes, plenty more to come—Pens lead it 1-0 after one...I'll be back after the second with more. Enjoy!

--Jesse


Jesse Agler's pregame blog:

The stars will be shining brightly at the BankAtlantic Center tonight as the Cats welcome in the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final time this season.

The Pens, a team many experts thought would be dominant in the near-future but on the outside looking in when this regular season comes to an end, are racing towards the finish line and have put themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The bulk of that credit, of course, seems to go to the team's young stars, namely Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And while Crosby and his kids deserve all the credit in the world, there is a veteran foundation on this team that has helped them mature as quickly as they have (and much more quickly than most thought they would).

The Cats, meanwhile, are coming off of two of the most exciting games of the season, both against Tampa Bay. On Saturday night, the Panthers collected their first overtime win of the year and two nights ago in Tampa, the game was pushed to the brink--a shootout win for the Bolts. Three points out of a possible four against the Lightning is certainly nice, but the Panthers know that .500-ish hockey won't get them too far with just 21 games left in the season.

Spoke with a couple of the guys on the team this morning and it seems the message from the coaching staff in terms of being successful against the Pens is to not try and play their style of hockey. Panthers want to try and slow it down and make it more of a grind-it-out 60 minutes than a pond game.

We'll be on the air with Panther Preview driven by JM Lexus beginning at 7, game time is 7:30...and from what I'm hearing, the game is on the verge of selling out (if it hasn't already), so I know that this will be one of the more fun games of the season to be at. Enjoy it! I'll be back after the first period with what I hope is some good news.

Game Preview:

The Florida Panthers have won two of three meetings vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins this season and will look to continue their winning record against the Pens tonight at the BankAtlantic Center. Florida has won 14 of the last 16 and have taken eight of nine at home in the series since the start of the 2001-02 season.

Seeking their fourth win in five games, the Panthers lost 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday at Tampa Bay and dropped to 1-12 in games decided after regulation.

Nathan Horton scored both goals for Florida, which was short-handed eight times.

"I thought we got a really big game out of Nathan Horton," coach Jacques Martin said. "We did a good job. I thought we had a strong effort. We took too many penalties."

The Panthers have only four goals on 26 shootout attempts this season.

"Penalty shots are not our specialty, I guess," forward Ville Peltonen said.

Center Jozef Stumpel, Florida's third-leading scorer with 42 points, returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games with a shoulder injury.

For all their dazzling offensive talent, the key to the Pittsburgh Penguins' season may rest with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Judging by his recent performances, the Penguins may have cause for concern.

Fleury will be on the bench Thursday night as the Penguins try to rebound from their first regulation loss in five weeks.

The Penguins (32-18-9) appeared to be on their way to extending their point streak to 17 games Monday, but Mike Sillinger's seemingly harmless wrist shot eluded Fleury with 26.8 seconds remaining and gave the New York Islanders a 6-5 victory.

The loss ended Pittsburgh's six-game win streak and was its first defeat in regulation since Jan. 10 at Florida.
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