By Nikki Ghorpade, University of Miami
Rats flew onto the ice as Tomas Fleischmann made it a perfect night for the Florida Panthers. A harbinger of playoff glory, the rats came on with 47 seconds left in overtime as Fleischmann redirected a solid wrist shot from Brett Clark from near the blue line to give Florida the win over the Nashville Predators late Monday night. It finished off the double header sweep as the Panthers earned a 6-3 victory in game one of the twin bill.
Florida finished off the night in style, and made a good start to their exciting pre-season schedule that continues on Wednesday, Sept. 18 against the Stars in Dallas.
The Panthers had a mix of veteran players and rookie prospects peppered throughout the roster for game two of the pre-season double header. The physical play kept up through both games, and many more Panthers and Predators veterans saw ice time in the second game compared to the first.
"It was a good day for us," said Dineen on the double header sweep. "To come out with two wins that’s a good thing. I think you spend a lot of time during the summer, you’re working out, you’re going to personal trainers and yoga and all the things that the players do now. They are extremely prepared but there is nothing that can prepare you for a season like a game and a win on top of it."
The roars were heard throughout the arena when Eric Selleck fought Nashville’s Mike Liambas in a hard-hitting duel.
For the second straight game, Nashville drew first blood, but the Panthers were quick to answer right back. Just 13 seconds following Craig Smith's goal, Jared Gomes scored an unassisted goal from in close.
Nashville scored again in the second to hold a long lead as a fairly even contest continued. Midway through the third period, however, Tomas Kopecky gave hope to his team as he tied it up with a shot from behind and to the right of the Nashville goal. Predators goalie, Carter Hutton, didn’t see the puck whizz by as it bounced off his body and into the net.
The line of Kopecky, Fleischmann and 2013 No. 2 overall pick Aleksander Barkov kept fans on the edge of their seats as they narrowly managed to keep the puck in the zone on several occasions, displaying their superior stick handling and hockey sense, especially in the third. Barkov would pick up the first assist on the third period equalizer and narrowly ended it in overtime, ringing it off the post on a shot. It was the first game the rookie saw in six months and he was honest with his play following the game.
"(The) third period was nice. But it was still a very bad game for me," said Barkov who continued with what he didn't like about his game. "It was a very fast game for me."
While he wasn't able to net the winner, Fleischmann gave the home fans the double victory.
"I don’t think it was a pretty game for us but we came along," said Fleischmann. "It’s our first exhibition game so we are still getting used to it. Everybody was trying to work harder in the third period than in the first period and that’s why we won."
Jacob Markstrom and Michael Houser played hard and kept tight goaltending throughout. Houser upped the ante a little by stopping all five shots during overtime, and seeing the Panthers to a win.
Some of the rookies, such as defender MacKenzie Weegar, got the chance to start on the big stage.
“It was a good opportunity and it was pretty exciting to get the start," said the 2013 seventh round selection who has gotten praise from Dineen for his play throughout rookie camp as well as the first few days of training camp. "We did our best to get the puck out and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
The double wins tonight are a good start for what hopes to be a successful regular season that could lead to playoff success.