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Leafs Sneak by Cats 3-2

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

Third period began with a new Panther goaltender. After Alex Auld stopped just 11 of 14 shots he faced, Ed Belfour now in the game for Florida. Also, good to see Pavel Kubina, who got hit in the head with a slapshot, back on the ice.

Just 1:12 into the period, Joel Kwiatkowski had a nice steal in the offensive zone and threw a wrist shot at the net that deflected off the skate of a Leaf defenseman and past Raycroft for the Panthers' first goal of the night. 3-1 with plenty of time. Let's see if the Cats can break some hearts in TO tonight.

With about 17 minutes left, the Leafs had what, for a moment, looked like another sneaky goal, but the net moorings came a little bit up and the puck slid through the opening where the net would be connected to the ice. While it was ruled a goal on the ice, it was quickly overturned upon video review. Nice break for the Panthers who now must cash in offensively to make it matter.

15:58 left, Olli Jokinen broke through into the Leaf zone and was tripped down by Chad Kilger, setting up just the second power play of the night for the Panthers. Ville Peltonen had a mini-breakaway along the nearside boards and faked Raycroft out, but his shot missed the open net by inches. Cats have had a couple of very good chances on this PP but the Leafs manage to grind out a kill as we are back to even strength.

Scoring change on the goal, as it appeared that Greg Campbell got the deflection, not the skate of Bryan McCabe. So fourth of the year for the kid
they call Soup and Kwiatkowski settles for his fourth assist of the season.

Stephen Weiss got crunched into the boards by a pair of Leafs with about 12 minutes left and was down on the ice for several moments before skating
himself to the bench. Another injury less than a minute later when Matt Stajan went down behind the play. Guys are dropping like flies tonight and
luckilly, nothing too serious that we know of.

Weiss is back just a shift or two later and made an immediate impact as he made a steal at center ice and a pair of super moves to get through into the offensive zone, taking a shot which deflected around like a pinball and eventually found its way into the back of the net. 3-2 with just under 10 minutes left. Crowd is coming alive in a major way here in Sunrise. Peltonen gets credit for the goal, on assists from Weiss and Allen.

Really exciting hockey now...everytime the Panthers gain possesion of the puck, the are rushing five-strong at Raycroft and creating some great opportunities.

Down to five and a half minutes left, more of the same. Leafs have taken just four shots this period and Belfour has stopped them all.

One minute seven seconds to go, face off coming in the neutral zone...Belfour will soon be leaving his net for an extra attacker if the
Cats can control the puck. With 28.6 seconds left, the puck ended up in the net but it was gloved in unintentionally by Marty Gelinas as he tried to settle it on the ice and so it will not be a goal. Still, great pressure from the Cats with the sixth man on.

That would be the last good chance for the Panthers as time ran out on their comeback and the Leafs win it by a score of 3-2. Tough loss for the Cats who had to fight back from an early deficit and came up a little short. Cats end
up with a 41-19 advantage on shots when all is said and done but Alex Auld let in three of those and that would be all that Toronto would need when the final horn sounded.

Final game before the All-Star break coming up Saturday afternoon in Washington. It'll be a day-game...Goldie and Moller will be on the air
beginning at 12:30 for the 1 o'clock start. Next home game not until the 27th when the Devils come to town. That'll be my next blog--enjoy the
All-Star game!


Jesse Agler's 2nd Intermission Report:

With all the penalty trouble the Panthers have had, more frustration for the home team as Ville Peltonen was high-sticked in the face early in the
second, cutting open his bottom lip...and no call was made. Coach Jacques Martin got about as animated as you'll ever see him behind the bench and Peltonen has gone back to the dressing room for further treatment. Would have been a double-minor on Toronto had anyone with an orange armband seen it.

Cats had a good opportunity on a late-developing 3-on-1 rush, Toronto came quickly the other way on an odd-man rush of their own, and converted to
extend the lead to 2-0. The goal belongs to Chad Kilger, his 8th of the season.

Midway through the period now and Toronto is just dominating play, keeping the puck in front of Alex Auld. All of the pressure culminated in a squeaker of a goal getting underneath of Alex Auld and through and just like that, it's 3-0 Toronto. So far this period, three shots by Toronto. Two have gone in.

After the third goal by the Leafs, the Panthers have really turned up the pressure and are forcing the action a lot more and creating some chances in front of the Toronto net. The other good news is that Peltonen has returned from the high-stick.

Scary moment with about four minutes left in the period, as Pavel Kubina got hit in the helmet with a slapshot in front of his net. Not to sound
insensitive, but it looked like it could have been a lot worse, as Kubina left the ice pretty quickly and with limited assistance to go get fixed up in the back.

With about two minutes left, Bryan Allen got run from behind by Wade Belak and Allen wasted no time challenging Belak and before you know it, the
gloves were off. Allen landed a couple of really nice shots--lets hope it fires up the team as they need to make up at least three goals in the final 22 minutes or so of this one.

Cats dominated the second as far as shots go, outshooting the Leafs 14-4 but Toronto scores twice, and they lead it 3-0 headed into the third.


Jesse Agler's 1st intermission report:

Great first shift for the Panthers, as Jozef Stumpel, returning after missing the last couple of games with an upper body injury, had a couple of really good scoring chances. Speaking of returning from injury, Leafs' winger Darcy Tucker was expected to perhaps return tonight, but has been held out of the lineup by coach Paul Maurice.

The theme of the last game, without question, would be the Panther penalty problems and tonight it took less than six minutes for the parade to the box to begin. Chris Gratton got called for hooking behind the Panther net at 5:50 to give Toronto's seventh ranked power play a shot at the Cats' PK unit, which has been stellar as of late. Good kill for the Panthers but soon thereafter, Greg Campbell got called for a high-sticking double-minor, giving the Leafs four more minutes of time with an extra man. The frustration with the officials, less than 10 minutes into the game, is evident with the fans already--especially considering what happened here two nights ago against Carolina.

Panthers did a very nice job killing off the penalties but weren't able to clear the zone when Campbell came out of the box and Boyd Devereaux was left in front with a rebound and knocked it home for his second goal of the year. Not technically a power play goal, but it may as well have been.

Five minutes to go in the period and after the Panthers managed just four shots on goal in the first period on Tuesday night, they have only three so far tonight. However, Bates Battaglia is called for tripping and so the Cats have an opportunity to play a man-up. On the power play the Panthers got set up several times and had a couple of good chances, taking five shots, but
all were stopped by Andrew Raycroft.

Well, after one period, it's Toronto on top of the Cats 1-0, I'll be back after the second period with more.


Tonight's Game Notes:

Tonight's game is the final game of a three game homestand for the Panthers. The Panthers are 1-0-1 so far on this current homestand after a 7-3 win over Washington Saturday night where C Stephen Weiss recorded his first career hat-trick and a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday night to Carolina.


TV: FSN-Florida (Dave Strader, PxP, Denis Potvin, Color. Craig Minervini, Ice Level)

7:00: Panthers Preview Hosted by Craig Minervini

Radio: 560 WQAM (Steve Goldstein, PxP, and Randy Moller, Color. Jesse Agler, Host)

ESPN Radio 760 AM West Palm Beach

PICKING UP POINTS: The Panthers have been consistently picking up points over the last few weeks. Florida has picked up 18 points in the last 14 games, with a record of 7-3-4. As of Wednesday night, Florida remained only six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. During the month of December, the Panthers picked up 16 points in 14 games going 7-5-2 in the last month of 2006. In January the Panthers are 2-2-3.

HOME COOKIN': The Panthers are almost unbeatable at home over the past month. Since December 21, a span of seven home games, the Panthers are 5-0-2, including back-to-back home games with a hat-trick (Jokinen on 1/10 and Weiss on 1/13).

CAREER NIGHTS: Two Panthers had career nights Saturday against Washington. C Stephen Weiss recorded three goals for his first career hat trick. Meanwhile, D Jay Bouwmeester set two career marks, scoring two goals in a game for the first time in his NHL career and his two assists gave him a career-high four point night. To add onto that, Bouwmeester had a +4 rating on the night and leads the Cats this season with a rating of +11.

CAPTAIN LEADING THE WAY: Panthers captain C Olli Jokinen extended his point streak to seven games with a goal and an assist Tuesday night against Carolina. The Cats capitan now has seven goals and four assists in his last eight games. Jokinen now has 22 goals on the season and leads the team with 51 points (22-29-51). The two-point performace Tuesday night marked Jokinen's 16th multi-point game this season and seventh multi-point game in the Panthers last 14 games, a stretch in which Florida is 7-3-4. In his last 17 games, Jokinen has nine goals and 13 assists with a rating of +6. The Panthers leader scored his 150th career goal on Dec. 23 against Carolina and recorded his 300th point as a Panther on Jan. 7 in Vancouver.

Olli's Hat-trick: Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, Jokinen recorded his second hat trick of the season and third of his career.

League Leader: Jokinen's 51 points on the season is the 16th highest total in the NHL. The 226 shots Jokinen has put on goal this season are is the second highest total in the league. The Kuopio, Finaldn native has four GWG on the season which is among the NHL's best and his 22 goals rank him in the Top-20 in the NHL..

SPECIALTY TEAMS SUCCESS: The Panthers power play and penalty killing units rank among the top in the NHL. Florida's penalty killing has been on a 90% killing pace over the last 14 games, a key reason to the Cats 7-3-4 mark over that time. Florida's power play has been in the top 10 all season long and with a 2-5 performance Saturday night, and 1-3 performance Tuesday, Florida has once again moved into the top-5 in the NHL on the power play. The Cats C Jozef Stumpel is racking up the points on the power play this season. Stumpel now has 19 power play points (5-14-19). C Olli Jokinen has 15 power play points (7-8-15). Also, the Cats C Stephen Weiss has scored six PPG and five PP assists this season. D Ruslan Salei leads all Cats defensemen with 15 PP points (1-14-15).



1. San Jose 63-238 26.5% 9. Carolina 40-253 84.2%

2. Anaheim 55-247 22.3% 10. San Jose 33-201 83.6%

3. Montreal 47-213 22.1% 11. Ottawa 38-231 83.6%

4. Boston 44-220 20.0% 12. Dallas 41-245 83.3%

5. Florida 41-208 19.7% 13. Florida 46-270 83.0%

A GOALIE'S BEST FRIEND: Florida's defense has given Panthers G Ed Belfour three games this season with little work. Saturday against Washington, the Cats defense held the Caps to only 17 shots on goal. It was the second lowest shot total against Florida this season. The Panthers held Buffalo to a season-low 16 shots on goal on Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, Florida held Boston to 21 shots on goal. Dec. 26 against Carolina, the Cats held the Hurricanes to only 17 shots in 65 minutes.

CLOSE GAMES: The Panthers have played 48 games this season, and 33 of them have been decided by 2 goals or less. Almost half of the Panthers first 48 games have been decided by one goal. In all 20 games have been decided by one goal with the Cats going 5-5-10 in those games.

LIGHTING THE LAMP: 12 different Panthers have scored a goal in the last nine Cats games. Six different Panthers scored goals during the Cats brief two-game winning streak to end the 2006 calender year. LW Rostislav Olesz, C Jozef Stumpel and D Mike Van Ryn scored goals Dec. 27 against Philadelphia in the Panthers 3-1 win. On Dec. 29, LW Ville Peltonen, RW Nathan Horton and LW Gregory Campbell all scored in the panthers 3-1 win over Montreal. In Edmonton on Jan. 2, C Olli Jokinen scored for the Cats and Thursday night in Calgary D Jay Bouwmeester joined the scoring party, and LW David Booth recorded his first NHL goal. Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, LW Martin Gelinas joined the scoring party, picking up his fourth goal of the season and Thursday night RW Juraj Kolnik scored the first Panthers goal at Carolina. Saturday night against Washington, C Chris Gratton became the 12th different Panther to score in the last month.

Spreading the Points Around Too: In Saturday's 7-3 win over Washington, 12 different Panthers scored at least one point. It was the second time in three weeks the Cats had a game with nine or more players picking up a point. Against the Canadiens on Dec. 28, nine different Panthers recorded a point with three different goal scorers and six different players recieving a point for an assist. Overall, 12 different Panthers players recorded at least one point in the previous the final two games of 2006.

SHUTOUT: With his next shutout, G Ed Belfour will tie Tony Esposito for eighth on the All-time shutout list with 76 career shutouts.

COMFORTABLE AT HOME: Cats C Olli Jokinen is tied for fourth in the entire NHL in points scored at home. Jokinen has 34 points in 23 games played at the BankAtlantic Center this season (16-18-34).

PANTHERS GAIN POINTS WHEN OLESZ SCORES: Panthers LW Rostislav Olesz has scored in seven different games this season and has eight total goals. In all seven games in which he has scored, the Panthers have picked up at least one point. Overall, Florida is 6-0-1 in games which Olesz scores. The Panthers first round pick in the 2004 draft scored two goals Jan. 4 in Calgary. Olesz scored a point in four consecutive games from Dec. 14 - 21 and scored a goal in all three games during the Cats three-game win streak that week. When Olesz records a point, Florida is 9-1-3.

WELCOME TO THE NHL: Many players from the Rochester Americans (AHL) have made the trip from Rochester, NY to South Florida. In all, seven players from Rochester have been called up this season. C David Booth made his NHL debut Nov. 20 at Boston. He has played 11 games wiith the Cats, recording one goal and three assists. C Drew Larman has been called up three times, the most recent on Nov. 30. at Ottawa. Larman made his NHL debut Nov. 13 against Washington and scored his first career NHL goal on Nov. 24 against Ottawa. He added his second goal Dec. 12 at Anaheim. C Greg Jacina was called up during November and C Rob Globke was called up Nov. 28. C Janis Sprukts was the first Rochester call-up this season in October. He has been called up three times this season. RW Anthony Stewart became the sixth Amerks players to suit up from the Panthers this season when he was called up in December. He has been recalled twice. On Jan. 6, Florida called up C Kamil Kreps. He is the seventh Rochester player to wear a Panthers jersey this season and he becomes the fourth different prospect to make his NHL debut with Florida this season.
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