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Panthers Pick Up 5-2 Home Victory vs. Coyotes

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Cats Get Strong Performance from Minor League Call-Ups Larman, Booth, Kreps and Lojek

Jesse Agler's post-game report:

Coyotes continued their power play for the first 1:13 of the third and the Panthers summarily killed it off to return the game to even strength. Not too long after that, the Cats were buzzing in front of Joseph and Marty Gelinas whacked one in, his 10th of the year, to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead just 1:45 into the third.

At this point, the shutout storyline will take over, as the Panthers have just one shutout this year, Alex Auld blanking Montreal on November 28th, a game that the Cats would actually lose 1- 0 in a shootout. On top of all of that, a Belfour shutout would be his 76th as an NHLer, tying him for 8th all-time with Tony Esposito.

Speaking of goaltenders, the night is over for Curtis Joseph, as Mikael Tellqvist will finish the game between the pipes for the Coyotes.

Well, with 13:19 left, we can forget about that shutout talk, as Fredrik Sjostrom slips one past the Eagle to make it 4-1.

Don't let the goal worry you, though—less than a minute later, Chris Gratton scores an easy one on a great feed from Olli Jokinen to reextend the lead: it's 5-1. For Gratton, it is career goal number-200.

Panthers with little trouble closing this one out... Save up a late power play goal, but no harm— they take it by a final score of 5-2. Cats back in action Tuesday night in Montreal, back at home here next Saturday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town. Great win tonight—we'll be back Tuesday night at 7 for the Cats and the Habs in Montreal. Until then...


Jesse Agler's 2nd intermission report:

Pretty uneventful first three minutes of the period, until Mike Van Ryn accidentally high- ticked a Coyote, which set off a chain reaction of pushing and shoving that resulted in four players being sent to the box—and cancelled out what would have been a Phoenix power-play.

A Panther power play lasts just 21 seconds as Jay Bouwmeester is sent off following a Phoenix hooking call and so some 4-on-4 hockey. Back to even strength with minimal excitement—though very quickly, another Coyote penalty and so another Panthers power play.

Now more than midway through the period (and the game) and it's a status quo kind of situation right now. Panthers controlling most of the action and getting some pretty solid scoring chances. So far in the period, just three shots on goal for the Coyotes, seven for the Cats.

With just under six minutes left, Gary Roberts came in on a break and made a move that made him look like a young man again, and that netted his 13th goal of the year. 3-0 Panthers, a huge goal on a beautiful move.

At 14:23, couple of minors called and so another bout of 4-on-4 opens things up again. Olli Jokinen and Ville Peltonen had a great 2-on-1 break, but couldn't get the puck past Joseph.

The 10th penalty of the period is called at 6:27, on Panther forward Kamil Kreps, giving Phoenix a late-period power-play. Panthers kill it off, and soon thereafter another call goes against the Cats, a holding penalty on Mike Van Ryn with just 46.8 seconds left in the period.

Cats will be shorthanded to start the third period, but they are now outshooting the Coyotes 27-13 through two...Ed Belfour will look for his first shutout as a Cat in the third, I'll be back after the game with more.


Jesse Agler's 1st intermission report:

Panthers and the Coyotes, Swamp Cats and Desert Dogs—not going to lie, very cool seeing Wayne Gretzky behind the visitors' bench this evening.

Panthers with an early power play here in the first, but never really got set up and only had one real chance. Curtis Joseph in net for the Yotes, known for giving up plenty of rebounds and so the grinders for the Panthers, the guys like Gary Roberts, Chris Gratton (who's second cousin Josh is playing for Phoenix) and Marty Gelinas, look to knock in some second-chancers.

Another power play at 6:11 for the Panthers and again nothing at all in terms of serious scoring chances. In fact, the Coyotes controlled almost the entire final minute of the Panther advantage.

Just a few moments after the power play expired, though, the Cats set their attack up and after scooping up a rebound to the side of the net, Nathan Horton wrapped all the way around and put it in for his 18th goal of the year. Great effort for Horton, who is getting hot again—scoring a goal for the third consecutive game.

At 11:07, a third PP chance for the Cats as Keith Ballard is put away after cross-checking Horton in front of the net after the whistle. This time, the Cats controlled the puck from the get-go and continued to throw shots at Joseph. Eventually, after a Nathan Horton shot was blocked by CuJo, Olli Jokinen scooped it up and put it in on a bad angle, the captain's 24th of the season, and a 2-0 Panther lead.

Not all good news, Bryan Allen called for holding the stick with just about six minutes left, giving Phoenix it's first PP of the night. Just one goal in the last 15 tries a man-up for the Desert Dogs in their previous five games. No trouble setting up for the Coyotes, plenty of chances, but not a lot of shots, and those that did get through were stopped by Ed Belfour.

2-0 here after the first period, Cats outshoot Phoenix 15-7...I'll be back after the second—with what is hopefully some more good news.


Pre-game report:

The Florida Panthers are no doubt glad to be playing at home.

Florida looks to bounce back from a brief but disappointing road trip Saturday when it meets the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Panthers (20-25-11) fell 4-2 at Minnesota on Thursday, wrapping up a two-game trip that also included a 5-4 overtime loss at Colorado two days earlier. They are just 6-15-8 on the road this season, giving them the fewest victories away from home in the NHL.

"It's disappointing, but I thought we had a good effort," coach Jacques Martin said of the trip. "You look at the number of players we have out. We're missing (Jozef) Stumpel, we're missing (Juraj) Kolnik, we're missing (Todd) Bertuzzi, that's a lot of scoring. The guys who played, played hard, and I think there's some calls that hurt us."

Florida is 6-2-1 in its last nine home games, but was pounded 7-0 by Los Angeles last Saturday in its last contest at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers have been outscored 16-6 during an overall three-game losing streak.

Nathan Horton and Martin Gelinas scored Thursday for the Panthers, while Ed Belfour made 31 saves in a shaky outing. Belfour has started each of Florida's last three losses.

"It seems like the rebounds that came out went right out to players and they got an open net," Horton said.

The Panthers allowed the Wild to score twice on three power-play chances Thursday and have given up eight power-play goals in their last five games.

"It seems like it happens every game," Horton said. "We take a penalty and put ourselves in that position. They get a goal and it takes us right out of the game. They get a goal and then we can't come back."

Florida is hoping to get its penalty kill on track against the Coyotes (25-28-2), who have scored just one power-play goal in 19 chances in their last five games. That lone man-advantage score came in Wednesday's 4-2 loss at Detroit, Phoenix's fourth defeat in six games.

Owen Nolan and Shane Doan scored for the Coyotes, who are playing the third game of a four-game road trip.

"We didn't have enough of our players show up," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "It seems like the same five or six guys keep coming to play, then we have too many passengers.

"They deserved to win, and we deserved what we got."

Curtis Joseph made 44 saves but lost for the fifth time in eight starts. He had allowed just four goals in his previous four starts.

"We didn't deserve to be in that game," Doan said. "They outplayed us for pretty much the whole game, but we had an incredible goaltender. Whenever you get that type of goaltending, you should expect to win the game because it's such an advantage. We let 'Cuj' down."

This is the first meeting between these teams in Florida since a 2-1 win by the Coyotes on Oct. 15, 2003. Phoenix has just one loss - in overtime - in the last five matchups in the series, posting three wins and a tie.
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