|Panthers forwards Shawn Matthias and Peter Mueller celebrate Matthias' third period goal to tie the game at three against Buffalo (Getty Images).
Looking for a spark to fire up the Panthers offense, head coach Kevin Dineen put the Panthers hottest scorer of late (Shawn Matthias, seven goals in 14 games entering Thursday night) along with two other players looking to get back on track (Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller) and the line combo worked to perfection.
The trio found chemistry early as Matthias scored 3:28 into the game off a rebound as Huberdeau picked up the second helper. Mueller would get in on the action later as he beautifully fed Matthias to tie the game at three then Huberdeau to tie the game at four in the third period. As a line, the three combined to record six (3-3) of the Panthers 11 points.
"The Matthias line popped last night," said Dineen following an optional practice on Friday. "Those guys got some points. They were for the most part responsible on D."
What really seemed to impress Dineen was that they did it against the opponent's best. They combined for 15 shots on the night while averaging over 17 minutes of ice time.
"(That's) the line that's recognized by their opponent (as the top line)," said Dineen. "So they're playing against some top pairings but obviously they're off to a good start. That was a good showing by them last night."
Game 2 against New Jersey figures to be a much tougher task Saturday night with the Devils employing a notoriously tough trap system.