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Panthers beat Knights 3-1

February 3, 2019, 11:22 AM ET [3 Comments]
Guest Writer
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By Matt Ross

The Cats bounced back from their loss to the Predators Friday night by beating the Knights 3-1 yesterday. In my opinion, it was one of the most fun games I’ve seen in awhile simply for the pace and back-and-forth action.

Alexander Barkov opened up the game with an absolute lazer beam of a wrist shot to go top shelf past Marc Andre Fluery a mere 12 seconds into the game. The shot exploded off Barkov’s stick and left MAC frozen—there was no chance for him to react and it seemed as quick as it was off his stick, was as quick as it was out of the net.

That strong start would eventually be canceled out when Max Pacioretty scored about eight minutes later to even things out at 1-1, but not before the tone of the game was set. That tone, of course, was speed and pressure (from both sides).

Vegas is an interesting team. We all remeber their success from last year, but despite having a bit of a sophomore slump this season, they’re still incredibly dangerous. Their speed, chemistry and ability to finish makes them lethal – oh, and that guy they have in net helps, too.

Last night was a testament to what kind of team they are. Even though they lost 3-1, it was certainly no cakewalk for the Cats. The scary thing about the Knights is their ability to swarm the puck, ramp up/sustain pressure and use their speed to get teams on their heels.

We saw all of this last night as they created a number of high quality scoring opportunities and the scoreboard could have easily had a crooked number on it if it wasn’t for the difference-maker: James Reimer.

Reimer had a great game turning away 34 of Vegas’ 35 shots, which was 10 more than the Cats managed to get on MAC. Reimer’s effort earned him the third star of the game, though I think he should have probably taken home the numero uno honors. His skill, confidence and occasional luck (which you need as a goalie) was on full display last night. What was really impressive to me was his ability to fend off so many opportunities that were in tight. It seemed like Vegas had an endless amount of in-close chances that are difficult for goalies to fight off. Actually, with all the rumors swirling around Panthers trade pieces and potential targets, Reimer is building his value with solid starts like this – if he is in fact someone that Florida is thinking of moving.

The second period saw no goals, but more of that great back-and-forth action.

This trend carried over into the third, where Vegas really turned up the heat, but the Cats managed to weather the Knights’ storm and have an answer to it as well -courtesy of Mike Hoffman and Frank Vatrano. The silky Hoffman sprung himself on a loose puck to race past the Vegas defense, give MAC a little shoulder shake just enough for the Vegas net minder to commit to the splits and Hoffman slide the puck right under him. A real beauty! So happy the Cats picked him up. It was then Vatrano who sealed the deal with an empty net dagger in the dwindling minutes of the game.

While it was a very nice overall team effort, it’s also important to note that new Cat Derrick “Don’t Flip Me Yet” Brassard had himself a nice first game in the Panther head sweater; almost scoring in the first period off of a juicy rebound and then earning himself an assist on that silky-smooth Hoffman goal. Good to see him contributing right out of the gate. It should be interesting to see if the Cats brass keeps him around or moves him because there are certainly conflicting views on it from Dale Tallon (who essentially said he’ll be sticking around) and hockey insiders (who believe he’ll be flipped). Either way, it was nice to see him have a good first game.

The Panthers continue their long home stand against the Blues next Tuesday. Coming off this strong win, the boys should be buzzing and hopefully continue the momentum.
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