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Panthers Drown Sharks 6-2

January 22, 2019, 11:56 AM ET [6 Comments]
Guest Writer
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By Matt Ross

The Panthers extended their winning streak to three games last night. It's almost a shame the All-Star break has to happen because this Florida team is rolling right now. Hopefully the break doesn't stifle their mojo.

I mentioned in the last column the importance of the Panthers' 'big cats' getting involved and they did just that last night. We saw Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Mike Matheson (up-and-comer), Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck (who has been a lightning rod since his return) all notch goals; while Roberto 'Don't Call Me Old Man' Luongo was poised in the blue paint, turning away 27 of the 29 shots he faced.

But the night belonged to winger Frank Vatrano who earned himself four points in an impressive offensive feat. He assisted on Ekblad's goal in the first, Matheson's in the second, Trochek's in the third and then found the back of the net for himself on a silky backhander. He certainly had the hot stick, created opportunities for his team and seized the moment.

It's interesting to note that three of the Panthers six goals came from the blueline. That's encouraging because it's always good to get quality production from the backend - both defensively and offensively. It's also important because I've read some articles that criticize head coach Bob Boughner (a former defenseman) for not finding constancy with his veteran D-men and apparent struggles developing young blueliners. Since he was brought in to help with this aspect of the game, he needs to get things rolling in that department and this three-game streak might be the beginning of just that - since we've seen Ekblad find the back of the net twice, Matheson twice and Yandle once in that time frame.

It was a tight game in terms of the numbers, but nice to see the cats be the quicker team last night and pounce (pun intended) on the puck in the tough areas and when opportunities presented themselves. They used their legs and passing to help stretch the Sharks out and get quality opportunities on a shaky Martin Jones - who was eventually pulled and replaced by Aaron Dell. They were also physical, out-hitting San Jose 25 to 23 (not a big margin at all, but enough). Say what you will about the modern game placing more importance on speedy/quickness, but you can't discount the effectiveness and advantage of physical hockey.

Probably the best thing to come out of last night (besides another full-team effort) was the Power Play. The Panthers went 3/4 on the PP. Outstanding. Nothing better than making the opposition pay for mistakes. Those are the opportunities you need to take advantage of and it was nice to see the cats do it three times. On the flipside, they successfully killed two penalties - helping make up for their own mistakes.

We keep saying it, but these are all the things you need to do to find success and they've been doing them for three games now. Keep the foot on the gas, boys.

While I'm not a big fan of the All-Star game, for those who are: enjoy the festivities!

All for now.
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