Claude Giroux beat Scott Clemmensen for the only goal of the shootout, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all three Florida Panthers' shooters as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Cats, 3-2 Tuesday night at BankAtlantc Center in Sunrise, Florida.
After losing a shootout to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins Sunday -- where Ilya Bryzgalov failed to stop any of the three Bruins' shooters -- Philadelphia had to be wary of heading to the skills competition to settle the outcome of the game. They had lost six consecutive decisions in contests that had gone the shootout route, but Florida has struggled just as much. The loss dropped their home record in shootouts to an abysmal 9-33.
With Tom Sestito in the penalty box for charging just over two minutes into the contest, Florida took advantage of their power play opportunity. Bobrovsky made saves on Stephen Weiss and Brian Campbell before Mikael Samuelsson was able to put the second rebound away for his third goal of the season to give the Cats a 1-0 lead at the 2:49 mark.
Philadelphia has seen their share of strange goals scored against them this year, but they would be the beneficiary of a weird bounce while on a man advantage of their own midway through the first period. With Erik Gudbranson in the sin bin, Brayden Schenn's shot deflected high in the air and came down directly onto the back of Clemensen. The puck glanced off the goaltender's back and trickled into the net as the cage was knocked off of its marsh pegs. After a lengthy review, it was deemed a good goal. Schenn's third of the season knotted the game at 1-1 at 10:35.
While Sestito had enabled the Panthers to score a power-play goal earlier in the period, he would be instrumental in getting a goal back for his team and giving them the lead. The big winger barreled into the Florida zone along the right wing side, then sent a backhander towards the Cats' net. Just before it reached Clemmensen, Jakub Voracek was able to get his stick on the puck and redirected it inside the short side post for his eighth goal of the season. The goal gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.
As has been the case many times this season, Philadelphia suffocated their opponent for much of a period, but made one mistake and it ended up with the puck in the back of their net.
After allowing Florida just four shots over the first 15 minutes of the middle stanza, Voracek attempted to force a pass through the middle of the Panthers defensive coverage. Weiss intercepted the pass and banked a lead pass for a breaking Kris Versteeg along the right wing side, who went in on Bobrovsky on a partial breakaway. As Maxime Talbot dove across to break up the play, Versteeg maintained control of the puck and cut across the front of the net. He drew Bobrovsky out of the net by a good five feet as the netminder overplayed the shot, and Versteeg instead spun and sent a pass to the slot to an open Tomas Fleischmann, who whirled around and whipped a backhander into the vacated cage for his 16th goal of the season, and first in the last nine games. The tally tied the game at 2-2 with 4:20 remaining in the second period.
Following scoreless third period and overtime sessions, Giroux weaved his magic on Clemmensen as the only successful skater in the shootout. The crafty center faked the goalie with a move to the backhand side in which Clemmensen totally bit, while Giroux altered his path to the forehand and deposited the game-winning goal into the open net.
Meanwhile, Bobrovsky thwarted Versteeg, Weiss, and Mike Santorelli in the shootout. In addition to those three stops, Bobrovsky also made 23 saves in regulation and overtime to improve his record to 11-4-1.
Clemmensen made 35 saves on the night, but eventually took the loss to drop to 6-2-5 on the season.
The points gained by both teams were crucial heading into the All-Star break. Philly stayed three points behind the New York Rangers, who shut out the Winnipeg Jets, and kept the Flyers four points ahead of the blistering-hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who won their seventh in a row in St. Louis. By virtue of the one point picked up, Florida is tied with the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division with 55 points.