SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 04: Marcel Goc #57 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his goal at 33 seconds of the second period against the Ottawa Senators along with Tomas Kopecky #82 at the BankAtlantic Center on March 4, 2012 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
After a frustrating loss on home ice to the Ottawa Senators in Mid-February, the Florida Panthers would come from behind to strike back en route to a 4-2 victory, extending their lead in the Southeast Division.
Two weeks later, the Senators returned to Sunrise, and this time the home team would be able to deliver a bit of payback.
With Robin Lehner set to continue his run in goal in place of the injured Craig Anderson, things almost went off the rails when the goaltender took a shot off his neck during warmups. Heading to the bench for treatment, Lehner would return after being checked out by the Senators medical staff.
The early game would be a somewhat tentative affair, with neither team generating heavy offensive pressure, but the Senators would start shooting the puck more consistently against Jose Theodore midway through the first period. The strategy would pay off when Jared Cowan accepted a pass along the boards from Kyle Turris at the Florida blue line, then fired a fast shot through traffic to beat Theodore.
The Senators would extend their lead in the final two minutes when a mad scramble for the puck around the Florida net ended with Chris Neil coming away from the scrum, finding a clear shooting lane, and firing before Theodore realized that the threat had moved to his side.
With the 2-0 lead through the first period, the Senators seemed ready to sit back and nurse their lead, but Panthers coach Kevin Dineen clearly had another plan in mind.
Putting his club on the offensive, Florida came out swinging, putting pressure on the Senators and forcing them back into their own zone before a point shot from Mike Weaver hit the stick of Marcel Goc in front of Lehner, spiked into the air, bounced off the goaltender's back and into the net.
Riding the momentum, the Panthers would get an unexpected contribution from their fourth line. A good pass from Jack Skille would send Krys Barch, far more known for his fisticuffs than his scoring touch, on a long breakaway. Walking through the defense and faking Lehner out with a last minute shoulder shuffle, his second goal of the season would tie the game.
The Senators would attempt to fight back after two unanswered goals, but their effort would backfire when veteran agitator Chris Neil fought for position around Jose Theodore with Panther d-man Ed Jovanovski. Yanking his stick up from the ice, the forward clipped Jovanovksi in the mouth, sending him sprawling to the ice, and eventually to the dressing room for repairs. Forced to kill a double minor for high sticking, the Senators penalty kill attempted to keep themselves in the game, but the Panthers power play was able to continue cycling the puck, eventually allowing Mikael Samuelsson to cut across the slot and take a pass through traffic from Stephen Weiss before firing a fast wrist shot past Lehner to give Florida their first lead of the game.
Holding their lead through forty minutes, the Panthers would continue to press the Senators with rattling checks and a physical edge to their play, eventually forcing Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson to take a pair of penalties, depriving the visitors of his puck moving skills and boosting their own momentum.
With time running down in regulation, Ottawa's hopes for an equalizer would be crushed when Jack Skille would break out on an odd man rush through the neutral zone and in on the net, cutting across the crease before hitting top shelf to ice the game for the Panthers.