The Florida Panthers proved they can compete with the very best in the NHL with a 2-0 win at defending Stanley Cup champions Boston on Thursday.
Slovak Tomas Kopecky scored from the slot with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left on the clock to put the Panthers in front and then Kris Versteeg scored into an empty net near the end.
Florida netminder Jose Theodore was in outstanding form, stopping all 40 shots he faced.
Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen was not overly pleased with his team’s backs-to-the-wall performance in the first two periods, but the result sent a clear message that his team know how to grind out a win.
“We had to weather a pretty big storm, we had to find a way to will ourselves into this one, I don’t think we can play like that on a consistent basis and win ... but anytime you come here and win ... it is a pleasing win,” he said.
The Panthers moved above Boston into second place in the Eastern Conference, behind leaders Philadelphia.
Boston failed to make the most of their opportunities with Adam McQuaid, Dennis Siedenberg and Patrice Bergeron all going close.
Having survived, Florida showed their killer instinct with Kopecky reacting quickly after an end-to-end rush from Shawn Matthias.
“It was like a typical playoff game, very tight around the ice. After the second period we said we had to be patient and stick to the game plan and I think we did and we deserved it,” Kopecky said.
FLYERS 3, PENGUINS 2
In Philadelphia, Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each scored in Philadelphia’s win over Pittsburgh.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby missed the first of two games as a precaution following a collision with teammate Chris Kunitz in Monday night’s loss to Boston. The Penguins could have used him. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh.
The Flyers built a 3-0 lead and held on a night after they rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat Buffalo in overtime.
LIGHTNING 3, RANGERS 2
In New York, Dominic Moore scored the tying short-handed goal with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in regulation and then netted the only goal in the shootout to help the Tampa Bay Lightning end a five-game losing streak with a victory over the New York Rangers.
The Lightning ended their skid despite not having star forward Martin St Louis in the lineup for the first time in 500 games. St Louis was struck near his left eye on Thursday morning by a shot taken by Moore and sustained facial and sinus fractures.
Ryan Malone got Tampa Bay even at 1-1 in the second period.
Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who have dropped two straight (0-1-1) following a five-game winning streak.
BLACKHAWKS 3, ISLANDERS 2, OT
In Uniondale, New York, Patrick Sharp scored his second goal of the game 1 minute, 34 seconds into overtime to lift Chicago past the New York Islanders.
Marian Hossa added a goal, while Ray Emery made 31 saves for the Blackhawks, who earned a 5-4 shootout victory against New York a week ago in Chicago.
Defensemen Travis Hamonic and Steve Staios scored for the Islanders, while Al Montoya made 25 saves.
In other games, it was:
‧ Devils 5, Senators 4, SO
‧ Predators 4, Blue Jackets 3
‧ Red Wings 5, Coyotes 2
‧ Blues 4, Ducks 2
‧ Canucks 4, Canadiens 3, SO
‧ Wild 4, Kings 2
‧ Sharks 5, Stars 2
‧ Flames 3, Avalanche 2