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Panthers Wrap-Up: Coyotes 2, Panthers 1

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 0 0 1 0 1
Coyotes 2 0 0 0 2
FLA - S. Gomez (2)
PHX - PP - R. Vrbata (20), A. Vermette (23)

PHOENIX —  ( - Radim Vrbata and Antoine Vermette scored first-period goals, and Mike Smith made 22 saves to lead the Phoenix Coyotes to a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

The Panthers made things interesting when Scott Gomez spoiled Smith's shutout bid with a wrist shot that knuckled into the net with 4:08 left in the third period to cut the Coyotes' lead to 2-1.

"The guys didn't quit. They kept pushing back and had quite a few scoring chances in the third. We had good opportunities and Smith played well and kept them out of (a tied game)."

- Panthers intirim head coach Peter Horachek.
1. Lu vs Mr. Smith: It was a couple of Olympic gold medal winning goalies battling it out in the Arizona desert Thursday night as both Roberto Luongo and  Mike Smith earned gold in Sochi with Canada back in February. In Glendale, the goalies played up to that gold medal winning standard, with each making some huge stops. Coming off a 52-save virtuoso performance in San Jose on Tuesday, Luongo's best save on Thursday night came with the Cats trailing 2-0 late in the second when he reach back to deny Mike Ribeiro. As for Smith, he kept the Panthers at bay when they got their chances, two of the best coming from Vincent Trocheck and Garrett Wilson. Smith’s biggest save came in the third when he flashed the glove to rob Colby Robak.

2. All Over The Ice: Blueliner Dmitry Kulikov had another strong game in all three zones for the Cats. He helped get the Cats on the board in the third period, setting up Scott Gomez to pull the Panthers within one. Number 7 in red finished with one assist, two shots, two hits, two blocked shots and a team-leading 26:31 TOI. Kulikov played almost half of the third period alone.

3. Until The End: Phoenix scored less than three minutes into the game on a power play goal from Radim Vrbata, and then extended the lead with 1:22 remaining in the frame off of Antoine Vermette’s 23rd of the year. The Panthers ramped up the offensive pressure in an effort to bust through Phoenix’s stifling 1-4 “trap” in the third period, and pulled within one as Gomez scored with 4:06 remaining. The Coyotes would ultimately weather the storm and hold on for the victory.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@Red_Tractors: Tough loss for the boys but great game @FlaPanthers #PantherNation #greatgame #2-1

@dsilv_tsd: Gomez with the beautiful snipe. @FlaPanthers #FlaPanthers #sniped

@TurbuLENTZ: @FlaPanthers GOAL-mez! #FlaPanthers GOAL!!!

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Marcos Wagner Niederpruem Lavocat: Nice goal Gomez!

Ian La Charite: Luongo is a force to be wreckoned with, yikes. Good game tonight, Panthers. Take the kings down a peg on Saturday!

1. Radim Vrbata scored the Coyotes' first goal of the game exactly one minute into their only power play of the night.

4/5. Nick Bjugstad finished with a team high four shots while picking up five hits against the Coyotes.

5. Dropping the gloves against Chris Summers in the second period, forward Joey Crabb picked up his 5th career fighting major.

7. The Panthers and Coyotes each finished with seven shots on goal in the first period.

36. Florida, led by Crabb's team-leading six hits, finished with 36 hits in the game.

Mike Smith
Was strong throughout the game and came up with many big saves, especially in the third period with the Panthers looking to get on the board and then tie the game.

23 Shots, 22 Saves, .957 SV%
The Cats will be going back to California for back-to-back games against Los Angeles and Anaheim over the weekend before heading back home for a three-game homestand against Ottawa (3/25), Carolina (3/27) and Montreal (3/29). The Kings are currently in sixth place in the Western Conference with 84 points (39-25-6). Anze Kopitar leads the way offensively with 58 points (22-36-58) in 70 games while Jonathan Quick owns a 22-15-2 record with 2.10 GAA and .914 save percentage.

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