Jiri Hudler strolled into the Panthers locker room Monday night, a baseball cap bearing his new logo pulled tight on his head.
Hudler’s first home game with the Panthers didn’t go exactly as he had hoped, but it wasn’t too bad.
Acquired on Feb. 27 in a deal with Calgary, Hudler has only played in three games with the Panthers because of delays in acquiring a United States work permit.
In Monday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Bruins at BB&T Center, Hudler got the Panthers going with his first goal of the night to make the score 4-2.
With 4:43 left in the game, Hudler’s second goal of the evening tied the score at 4 and helped Florida force overtime and all but steal a point in the standings.
Florida had trailed 4-1 going into the second period.
“It wasn’t pretty; there was a lot of talking, a lot of yelling,” Hudler said when asked to describe the Florida locker room during the first intermission.
“As you saw, we were good in the second and third. We need to play that way all the time.”
The Panthers have only had their three new acquisitions in the lineup at the same time once, and that game wasn’t all that memorable.
Florida may have traded for Hudler, Teddy Purcell and Jakub Kindl on the same day, but immigration issues, a healthy scratch in Winnipeg for Kindl and now a slight groin injury for Purcell have kept the three apart save for Saturday’s 5-1 loss in Arizona.
The Panthers hope to have Purcell back in the lineup Thursday and place him on a line with Hudler and Nick Bjugstad.
As for Hudler, he would like to keep his Sunrise scoring pace going when the Senators come to town Thursday. He almost had a hat trick on Monday as he had one big scoring chance snuffed out by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
“He’s a good goalie,” he said. “It would have been nice getting a third one, but getting a point out of the night was huge.”
▪ Jaromir Jagr passed Gordie Howe for third all-time on the NHL’s scoring list and now has former Edmonton, New York Rangers and Vancouver captain Mark Messier in sight.
Messier is second in points, 36 points ahead of Jagr.
“It’s more for you guys,” Jagr referred to the media when mentioning hitting another NHL milestone.
“It’s just behind me now. Let’s focus now on the wins.”
▪ Goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled from Monday’s game not long after Florida fell behind 4-1.
When the second period was set to begin, backup Al Montoya skated out to the net and took his place. Florida’s porous defense was to blame, coach Gerard Gallant said afterward, as the Panthers looked slow and sloppy in the opening period.
Boston not only opened the scoring 34 seconds in, but led 3-0 midway through the period.
Pulling Luongo seemed to be be done out of mercy.
“We had to sacrifice him,” Gallant said. “I think they had four breakaways and three 2-on-1s. It was awful. But we got a jolt in the second period.”
Some would say that “jolt” came in the form of Shawn Thornton jumping former teammate Adam McQuaid after he ran Quinton Howden into the boards.
Thornton may have ruined a Florida power play by taking on McQuaid, who was charged for interfering with Howden, but it seemed to pull the Panthers out of their malaise.
Thornton was given 17 minutes of penalties — two for instigating, five for the fight and a 10-minute misconduct.
Hudler made it 4-2 less than two minutes later.
“The guy is a character guy, and that’s a huge part of our locker room,” Montoya said. “He’s been there before, been in these games before. To see him step up for our teammate and do that is a testament to him.”
▪ Gallant said he wasn’t all that happy Florida fell behind 4-1 but was pretty proud of his team for fighting back and at least picking up a point in the standings.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but it was better than the way it started,” Gallant said. “It was disappointing in the first period, but we battled back and played a real good 40 [minutes]. We always talk about the first game after a long road trip is hard on you, but that’s no excuse. We had a big game and made a lot of mental mistakes.”