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Cats Pick Up Third in a Row vs. Rangers

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Panthers Defeat Blueshirts in front of Nearly 18,000 Fans

Jesse Agler's Post-Game Blog:

Panthers got the third off to a nice start, as Fedor Tyutin was called for hooking early in the third period, setting up a power play and the Cats, with the 4th best PP in the league, did not miss. Chris Gratton, with just five seconds left in the man advantage got the crowd on their feet and just as importantly, the Panthers on the board 2-1.

Just 24 seconds later, after a quick face off win, Nathan Horton took the puck right in front of the net and zipped one over the elbow of Kevin Weekes to tie the game at two and really send the fans into a frenzy. What a great start to the 3rd period, but still a lot, and I mean a lot, of time to go. The mission for the Panthers has changed, though, from needing to come from behind, to merely needing to take a lead and to hold that lead.

With about 13 minutes left, a mental mistake for the Panthers, as Jay Bouwmeester fired the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Cats were able to kill it off, but just a couple of minutes later, Ruslan Salei sent for holding the stick and if not for a couple of tremendous saves by Ed Belfour, the Rangers would have the lead again. After one flurry, Mike Van Ryn and Petr Prucha got tangled up and Prucha got called for roughing creating a 4-on-4 and then moments later, Rostislav Olesz and Bouwmeester combine to put some pressure on Weekes, and Olesz knocked a rebound home to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead--his third straight game with a goal. This building is going absolutely crazy as the Cats have done exactly what we said they needed to do, come back in the 3rd. Now a 31 second PP for the Cats, let's see if they can add to the lead. Some good chances, no goals, but right now, the Panthers just need to protect the lead.

Well, just back from the lockeroom and what a night. Cats have now won three straight for the first time this season and did so in highly exciting fashion tonight, coming from behind in the third period. Definitiely a win to build on, especially considering they had to overcome the penalty situation in addition to everything else. Great atmosphere in the building as well, great night to be at the arena. Should be another fun one on Saturday night, Canes are in town and the Cats have another chance to pick up some key points in the standings. We'll be on the air at 7 with Panther Preview driven by JM Lexus, puck drops at 730. Until then...go Cats!

--Jesse

Jesse Agler's 2nd intermission blog:

Good news, bad news to start the second for the Cats. They were not called for a penalty in the first four-plus minutes of the period, but the Rangers were able to score 5-on-5 and all of a sudden, two quick goals (one late in the first and this one) its 2-0 New York. Jason Ward used Panther defenseman Ruslan Salei as a screen and flipped a quick wrist shot over Ed Belfour's
glove and the Eagle never saw it. Last couple games for the Panthers were blowout wins on the road, but if they want to collect a point or two tonight they'll need to come from behind here at home.

Cats picked up the intensity as the period progressed and had some great chances but now more than halfway through the game, the Panthers still trail 2-0. Weekes has made some nice saves, but his d-men are deflecting a lot of Panther passes before they reach their final destination.

Finally a power play for the home team, as Aaron Ward gets called for a very obvious hooking call at 11:51--let's see if the Panthers can take advantage with the extra man. In the last two games, both blowout wins, the Cats scored five PP goals. Tonight, though, now 0-2 as they were unable to get set up until late in the advantage and weren't really able to get more than
a couple on net. Late in the 2nd now, still 2-0.

The game is getting increasingly physical and with just 3:02 left, Chris Gratton gets tangled up with someone after the whistle and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Rangers their seventh power play of the night, though their first this period. Again, the Cats able to kill it off, but you just can't come from behind while trying to kill penalties and so in the third, it'll have to be disciplined hockey as the Cats try and win a game when trailing after two for the first time this year. Nice crowd tonight, announced at over 17,000--lets see if the Cats can give them something to go crazy about. I'll be back after the game with what is hopefully an exciting comeback story.

--Jesse

Jesse Agler's 1st intermission blog:

Well, the Panthers come into this one red hot, the Rangers ice cold, but the first period was as much about the guys in black and white stripes as it was either team.

Ville Peltonen got sent off for four minutes after high-sticking Jaromir Jagr and drawing blood and the Panthers were, once again, faced with an early, yet big penalty kill situation. Cats killed off the first two minutes pretty easily without allowing New York to get set up, but New York had several really good chances in the final stages of the advantage and were stopped several times by Ed Belfour and company. However, just seconds after the four minutes were killed off, Olli Jokinen was called for hooking and it was right back to the PK for Florida. If you can imagine it, the penalty situation got even worse as Greg Campbell got nailed for holding creating a 1:14 of 5-on-3 time for the Rangers. New York started the big advantage off with five forwards on the ice and again, Belfour kept it scoreless. Finally a call on the Rangers, Adam Hall for holding created a 4-on-3 PP for NY, then a 4-on-4 situation, as Olli Jokinen got out of the box and found himself one-on-one with goalie Kevin Weekes but missed the net wide. Still, though, Cats killed it all off and now a 47 second power play for the Panthers.

Panthers, meanwhile, during all of this madness, missed out on what should have been a four minute power play of their own after Olli Jokinen was accidently high-sticked by Martin Straka and began to bleed under his left eye. The incident happened behind the play, however, and neither referee saw it. A bit of a wild first period, for sure.

Another call on the Cats as Bryan Allen hit with an interference penalty at 17:12, it is the fifth Ranger power play of the period. Amazingly, the Panther penalty killers had more offensive chances during the two minutes that Allen was in the box than the Rangers did, but, almost like clockwork, the Cats got called for another penalty, Gary Roberts for high sticking, and

he was not happy about it. But about five seconds into the penalty, New York finally converted and it is 1-0 after one. Six power plays for New York in the period, we'll see how this one progresses. I'll be back after the second. Talk to you then.

--Jesse

Jesse Agler's Pre-game Blog:

Rangers in town for the final time this year as the two teams wrap up their season series. So strange that this will be it for the Cats and the Blue Shirts in the regular season, considering we haven't even reached Christmas yet. But that's part of life in the new NHL.

As for the game, Panthers tonight will try and win their third straight game--if they do, it'll be the first time this year they have done so.

Rangers are obviously a very talented group, but, right now--they are struggling. They have guys hurt, they've got guys who are sick, and overall, they just can't seem to get a win. Panthers need to try and kick 'em while they're down, but that's no easy task. Especially considering the two really big guys, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan have both avoided the injury/sickness bug that seems to be going around.

Still, though, New York has lost three in a row and in those games were outscored 19-6, which included a 9-2 loss to Toronto on Saturday.

And speaking of the Maple Leafs, they were a victim of the Panthers this past week, as the Cats put a hurting on Toronto at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night in their last game.

All in all, should be a very exciting night of hockey--always lots of people in the building when the Rangers are here. We go on the air with Panther Preview at 7 for the 730 start tonight, I'll be back with more at the first intermission. Enjoy the game!

--Jesse

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