Auld Makes 38 Saves in 3-2 Loss vs. Rangers
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Florida Panthers goalie Alex Auld made 38 saves and defensemen Steve Montador scored the first NHL goal on Puerto Rican soil in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers in front of an emotionally charged crowd at the Coliseo De Puerto Rico in San Juan.
In addition to Montador, new Panthers defenseman Ari Vallin scored for Florida. New York got goals from rookie Nigel Dawes, second year forward Petr Prucha and defensive prospect Thomas Pock in the win.
Down 2-1 entering the third period. Cats veteran Martin Gelinas made an incredible one hand pass from behind the net to a cutting Vallin for a one-time shot and the goal. It was Vallin's first goal as a Panther.
Unfortunately, just seconds later, Dawes ripped off a slapshot and the eventual gamewinner past Auld.
Auld, coming off his last start in Atlanta in which he allowed five goals on 10 shots, was solid against New York, making a series of highlight reel saves, while allowing three goals in sixty minutes of action. Martin Straka had the two best chances of the night, with two shortside one-timers on an early second period power play. But Auld, who continually frustrated the Ranger shooters with his positioning was there to smother both of Straka's chances.
The Rangers took the lead in the second period when Pock scored on a power play wrist shot through traffic.
Vallin, one of the Panthers best players on the night, tried to answer right back a few seconds later, but his shortside wrist shot on a counter attack beat the goalie but not the crossbar.
The Cats held a 1-0 lead early in the first period until Prucha hammered a rebound into the gaping net to knot the game at 1-1 at 6:57 of the period. Auld was able to handle new Ranger Brendan Shanahan's initial shot but the rebound took a hard luck bounce off a Cats defenseman and right onto Prucha's waiting stick.
Auld made a series off solid saves throughout the first period, including a spectacular post-to-post stoning on a point blank Dawes chance.
Montador opened the scoring just two minutes into the opening period when the Rangers coughed up the puck in their own zone. Montador stepped up to intercept the errant puck and fired a wrist shot over starting goalie Steve Valiquette's blocker for a 1-0 lead.
Auld played all 60 minutes for the Cats, while Valiquette split time with local favorite and Cuban native Alvaro Montoya.
The game featured an entertaining blend of physical play and up-and-down action, especially when the Florida trio of Rostislav Olesz, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss were on the ice. Representing three of Florida's most recent first round draft picks, the line wreaked havoc in transition and was Florida most consistently effective unit throughout the evening.
Notable Panthers players that did not make the trip to Puerto Rico include Captain Olli Jokinen, forwards Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts, Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Gratton and defensemen Ruslan Salei and Mike Van Ryn.
The Rangers, on the other hand, iced a fairly talented squad including forwards Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, Brendan Shanahan, Matt Cullen and Petr Prucha and defensemen Marek Malik, Aaron Ward and Thomas Pock.
The Panthers return to action Sunday night vs. the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, before heading home for a pair of preseason home games on Wednesday, Sept. 27 (Atlanta) and Thursday, Sept. 28 (Chicago).
Opening Night is Oct. 6 vs. the Boston Bruins at the BankAtlantic Center at 7:30 p.m.