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Cats Strike Lightning 5-4 in OT

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Salei, Weiss, Allen, Peltonen & Horton Tally A Goal Each to Help the Cats Improve to 16-10-3 in Front of 17,800+ on Home Ice

Jesse Agler's post-game report:

Third period got off to a sluggish start. Both teams trading decent opportunities but nothing really happening.

About midway through the period, a slashing call on Tampa gave the Cats their first power play of the third and while the Panthers had several good chances, they could not find the equalizer and we are now under nine minutes to go in regulation. Just like that, however, another penalty on the Bolts—and the Cats are back on the power play.

This time, the Panthers cash in—and just 22 seconds into the power play, as Ville Peltonen knocks in a rebound for his 10th of the year to tie the game. What a night this has been.

So its on to overtime...this year: Tampa 10-2 in OT/shootouts...the Cats: 0-11. Forget it all, because Nathan Horton knocked in a rebound just 29 seconds into OT to give the Panthers two points and their first non-regulation win of the season.

Cats back in action at Tampa against this same team on Tuesday night, will return home Thursday against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.


Have a great night, everyone...what a game.


Jesse Agler's 2nd intermission report:

I can't imagine that this period will get going as quickly as the first did. I would imagine that Jacques Martin addressed his team and asked them to slow the pace a little bit. The first period was played to the Lightning's preferred pace, not the Panthers'.

Great chance for David Booth about five minutes in after Alexi Semenov's shot rebounded right to him in front of the net, but Booth couldn't lift it off the ice and Holmqvist slid over to get the pads on it.

About seven minutes in, Bryan Allen sent what looked like a relatively harmless wrist shot at the net, but with the traffic in front, Holmqvis
didn't get a good look at it, and just like that, Allen ties the game, 3-3 with his second goal of the season.

Shortly after the goal, Nick Tarnasky took a run at Juraj Kolnik and bashed him into the boards. Panthers D-Man Steve Montador was there to stick up for his teammate as he and Tarnasky dropped the gloves for a short fight. These teams have had plenty of fights this year—in fact close to a quarter of the Cats fighting penalties this year have come in games against the Lightning.

Couple of minutes later, Cats give Tampa their first power play of the night as the Panthers were caught with too many men on the ice. Cats did a good job containing the tough Lightning PP unit but with 19 seconds left on the penalty, Dan Boyle fired a slapshot from just inside the blue line that deflected off a Panther player and into the net. Bolts back on top, 4-3.

Another Panther penalty as Alexi Semenov is called for hooking at 12:00 giving the Lighting yet another power play. This time around, a much stronger kill by the Cats and we're back to even strength with about six minutes left in the period.

With 3:34 left, Andre Roy checks Alexi Semenov into the net, and is called for a penalty to give the Cats a power play...then the players stare each other down and eventually drop the gloves. The 6'6" Semenov had a great reach advantage and got the decision as the Cats are up a man but down a goal.

Tampa kills off the penalty though the Panthers had some decent sustained pressure with the extra man.

More on that note I had about the Panthers fights vs. Tampa this year—now seven of 25 fights the Cats have been in have come against the Lightning. Great job by Ted Hutton of the Sun-Sentinel who wrote all about that in this morning's paper.

Period comes to an end with Tampa up 4-3...teams trade goals and fists. Should be a fun final 20 minutes, I'll be back after the game to wrap things up.

Enjoy the third!

Jesse Agler's 1st intermission report:

What a start to this game, just 15 seconds in Paul Ranger is called for delay of game after he flipped the puck over the glass and the Cats were able to convert on the power play, as either Ruslan Salei or Olli Jokinen will get credit for a goal at 1:47.

About three minutes later, Stephen Weiss came in on a breakaway and beat Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist top shelf, glove side to give the Panthers a very early 2-0 lead.

Almost exactly two minutes after that, however, with a delayed penalty coming up on the Cats, Marty St. Louis one-timed a shot past Ed Belfour for his 34th goal of the season making it a 2-1 game.

If you can believe it—more offense. And more for Tampa. At 11:03, Eric Perrin netted his 10th of the year after a turnover in front of the net and the game is tied 2-2.

Not soon thereafter, the Lightning is called for its second penalty of the period, Filip Kuba is banished for holding David Booth and the Panthers get their second power play of this opening period.

Cats had their chances with the extra man but no goals and so the clock continues to tick here in the first with the score tied at two.

At this point, Panthers are outshooting Tampa 6-4...each team has two goals. Not good news as far as the ol' save percentage is concerned for Misters Belfour and Holmqvist.

Tampa is buzzing here with about four minutes left and on their seventh shot of the period, St. Louis strikes again. He was left out in front of Belfour, and jammed a rebound in for his second of the night and Tampa has it's firstlead of the game, 3-2.

Second game this year that the Lightning have scored three straight goals against the Cats. Last matchup, on November 22nd, Tampa opened up a 2-0 lead before the Panthers got three in a row to go up 3-2. After that, the Bolts got three of their own to make it 6-3 in a game they would eventually win 6-4.

Tonight, one is done. Finally. 3-2 Tampa, as they outshoot the Cats 9-7 in a wild first 20 minutes. Definitely strap in for the final 40 tonight, I'll be back after the second period with more.


Jesse Agler's pre-game blog:

Well, the Panthers are finally back at home after a couple of road games this week. Cats haven't played a game here in Sunrise since last Saturday night when they beat Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes 5-2 in what was one of their more dominant wins of the season. Since then—two more points, both earned Tuesday night in Montreal after a 1-0 win against the Habs. The next night, a tough 4-0 loss to the Senators in their building.

That brings us to tonight and to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fourth matchup of the season between these two teams, though they haven't seen each other since November 22nd, a night that the Bolts beat the Cats 6-4 here at BankAtlantic Center. Panthers have handled Tampa very nicely in this building the last two years, though, going 7-3-1 in the last 11 intra-state matchups played in South Florida.

I spoke with Jacques Martin this morning and he didn't try and hide the reality of the Panthers' playoff hopes. In fact, he told me that by his estimation the Cats would need about 40 points in their final 23 games or so to lock into a playoff spot and I don't need to tell you that that is no easy task.

Regardless, if the Panthers can slow down this hot Lightning team (winners of 14 of their last 17) and pick up some points tonight and Tuesday night on the other side of the state, perhaps things will begin to look more and more positive.

One other thing to think about—the trade deadline is now just 10 days away, so the team's performance tonight, Tuesday, Thursday here against Pittsburgh, and next Saturday night against Boston will certainly have plenty to do with the future of this roster.

I'll be with you tonight on WQAM beginning at 6pm with Florida Panthers Weekend Edition...Craig Minnervini, Randy Moller, and I will be on the air with Panther Preview at 7 for the 730 start.

Hope to see you here at the arena. Enjoy the game, everyone!


Game Preview:
The Florida Panthers will take on cross-state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the BankAtlantic Center.

Florida is 1-2-0 against Tampa Bay this season and has been outscored 10-5 in the last two meetings. Florida is coming off Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Ottawa - its eighth shutout defeat this season.

"A lot of the shots we had from outside were right in (Senators goalie Martin Gerber's) belly, and we didn't get a lot of rebounds," center Stephen Weiss said. "When there were rebounds we just didn't have enough guys in front of the net and we weren't hungry enough in front of the net, that's basically it. We weren't buzzing enough. I think we were just too cautious about getting caught."

Ed Belfour made 29 saves one night after stopping 29 shots in a 1-0 win at Montreal for his first shutout since April 3, 2004, and the 76th of his career. Belfour, 15-13-6 with a 2.75 goals-against average in 38 appearances this season, has dropped four of his last six starts.

Game time is 7:30pm with Steve Goldstein & Denis Potvin on FSN and Craig Minervini & Randy Moller on 560 WQAM.
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