The surprise story that is the Florida Panthers continued to roll on Thursday night.
We’re back for another edition of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and today we’re going to hone in on the Florida Panthers who pulled off quite the result by beating the Tampa Bay Lighting in a big Central Division showdown last night, while there was a boatload of other action and drama across the NHL.
For instance, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks combined for 11 goals in a thriller, the Vegas Golden Knights debuted some (very) shiny new lids, the Nashville Predators found a way to squeak past the lowly Detroit Red Wings, goaltending actually showed up for the Edmonton Oilers and, as has been the case throughout 2020-21, pucks were flying in the net at a crazy rate. So, with 10 games in total to delve into and breakdown, let’s not waste any more time and instead dive right into The Good, The Bad & The Ugly from Thursday night’s slate of games in the NHL.
Florida Panthers continue to surprise in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Florida Panthers – Let’s start with our headline act here as the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Thursday night to improve to 8-1-2 on the year. It has been a hugely impressive start to the 2020-21 season for the Panthers who are seemingly buying into the new culture being created by new General Manager Bill Zito, and last night was without doubt their statement win of the year.
After all, the Lightning have been rolling all year and looked certain to march through the Central and, while that may still be the case, the Panthers are rapidly proving that they aren’t going away in a hurry and they’ve put a lot of people on notice with this big win. What was most impressive was the way Florida dominated at 5-on-5, an area they have struggled in this year, with four of their goals coming at even-strength and Carter Verhaeghe, who was a victim of Tampa Bay’s salary cap crunch this past offseason, exacted a small measure of revenge on his former team with his seventh goal of the year on what was just a pretty damn good night for the Florida Panthers.
Edmonton Oilers’ Goaltending – You have to give credit where credit is due. I’ve ripped the Edmonton Oilers for their goaltending this season but, on Thursday night, it was pretty damn special. Now, look, it could be a case of putting lipstick on the proverbial pig but, for one night at least, let’s be nice to the Oilers when it comes to their goaltending.
Mike Smith stopped all 38 shots he faced for his 40th career shutout in the NHL, and it was a hugely impressive showing from the veteran who stood on his head and frustrated the Montreal Canadiens as the Oilers improved to 9-7-0 with a big 3-0 win. Now, I still think that Edmonton needs better goaltending but Smith has had a couple of stellar outings now and you have to dish out credit when it is deserved, as it was last night.
Anaheim Ducks – We need to give the Ducks some credit here because they adapted on Thursday, and the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t. Now, in case you missed it, although I don’t think that is possible but anyway, Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek was pulled in the second period of the first game between these two on Tuesday night after testing positive for COVID-19, throwing this contest into chaos.
However, after rapid testing was administered to both teams, the Ducks were able to put all the drama, all the chaos and all the uncertainty behind them by gutting out a hugely-impressive 1-0 shutout win over Vegas at T-Mobile Arena. Max Comtois scored the only goal of the game at 12:18 in the third period and John Gibson made 21 saves in what was a big, big win for the Ducks who did a better job than the Golden Knights when it came to adjusting to the madness.
Mathew Barzal – Okay, so it wasn’t a great night for the New York Islanders who lost in a Shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was a good night for Mat Barzal who showcased his insane ability and talent once again.
With the game tied in the third period, Barzal anticipated where the puck was going, he raced over to it before skating in, picking up speed and then pulling off an absolutely filthy move to deke and bamboozle defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph and lifting the puck over Casey DeSmith. It was just a ridiculous play from Barzal who combined insane speed and skill for another highlight-reel play.