The Florida Panthers extended their historic winning streak to 12 games Sunday after defeating the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in a physical affair.
Despite a rather lackluster effort by the Panthers, who recorded only two shots in the second period—and 14 overall—the team was able to claw out a victory in their final visit to Rexall Place with their dukes up. The two clubs combined for 64 hits on the night—as well as three fights—making their looming date next week that much more interesting.
Nick Bjugstad, known for his offensive prowess rather than his fighting style, recorded his first ever career fight against Eric Gryba and received several stitches on his forehead, all in the name of victory.
“It was a grinder-type game,” said Bjugstad, who donned the Spacey In Space sweater. “We did what we had to do to win—we didn’t play necessarily well like I said—but we’re going to have those games where we don’t feel the greatest, but we got to sneak them out somehow.”
Al Montoya played solid all game, stopping 24 of 25 shots, and now hasn’t allowed more than one goal in his last five starts.
When you’re the hottest team in the league like the Panthers, you’re bound to get lucky. Jaromir Jagr reaped the benefits of a fortunate bounce three minutes into the game when Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse bobbled the puck on his own blue line, sending Jagr on a breakaway.
Jagr barely got a shot off, but in stick handling from his forehand to his backhand, the puck still found a way to leak through Cam Talbot to put the Panthers ahead 1-0 on their first shot on goal.
The luck continued later in the period when Oilers winger Taylor Hall roofed one past Al Montoya, only to have the goal called back after head coach Gerard Gallant successfully used his coach’s challenge on the play that was later ruled offside.
At the 7:04 mark, not even a minute after the disallowed goal, Jonathan Huberdeau snuck to the front of the Oilers net unnoticed, and slipped the puck past Talbot for his sixth goal of the year to go up 2-0.
Mark Letestu put one past Montoya at 12:32 of the first to make it 2-1, and that would be all the offense in the night.
Gallant commented on the team’s ability to find ways to win—something that has occurred a few times on the current winning streak.
“They were pretty physical tonight, so they played a hard game and they had some big body checks on us—but like again—we found a way to win the game and we didn’t get many chances, many shots, but good enough to win.”
Although the team wasn’t generating much on offense, the Panthers displayed outstanding team support for one another.
On one instance, Oilers grinder Matt Hendricks plastered stalwart defender Aaron Ekblad, only to have Logan Shaw drop the mitts with Hendricks. Ekblad went to the dressing room following the hit, but returned to the bench soon after.
“It’s all about team—any team in the National Hockey League is going to defend their teammates—and that’s why we’re winning hockey games,” said Gallant.
The Panthers win their sixth straight game on the road for the first time in franchise history, and will look to make it seven on Monday when they visit the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.