The Panthers are heading back to Sunrise with the series tied at 2

One of my biggest criticisms of Andrew Brunette as a coach was his inability to make changes and how he continually stuck to his guns/lines, especially when it came to the defensive pairings.

When I saw that the morning lines looked to be the same as the lines looked in Saturday’s ass beating, I went to a dark place deep in my soul knowing that the Cats were doomed.

But then a miracle happened.

Maybe Brunette read my article or all of the messages I sent telepathically finally got to him, but I saw the actual lines for the game. Then again, I think even Ray Charles could have seen how terrible MacKenzie Weegar was through the first three games of the series.

Either way, Ekblad got paired with Chiarot and Weegar got matched with Forsling!

I am not sure why, but it seems like pairing Weegar with Forsling has completely changed his game. Maybe Weegar stepped his game up and his showing his playoff form? Could it be the fact that pairing Weegar with a defensive defenseman who can hide Weegar’s defensive zone flaws has changed my opinion of his game? Both are legitimate arguments and something we can debate later. Either way Brunette FINALLY split up Ekblad and Weegar!

Now, let’s move on to last night’s game.

The Panthers did a great job controlling the pace of play and the game in general even though Washington scored the first goal.

Let’s be honest, that goal was a fluky bad bounce that goes off of Oshie’s shin pads while he was jumping to avoid being hit by Carlson’s shot. The puck ricochet’s down to the ice and bounces up and under the crossbar. There is absolutely nothing Sergei Bobrovsky could have done about that and given 100 attempts, Carlson and Oshie could not hit that deflection again. Here is a video of it and I will let you be the judge:

The Panthers were able to answer back when Carter Verhaeghe snuck one through Samsonov’s 5-hole later in the 1st. While Swaggy made a nice move, this is definitely one Samsonov would want back. Either way it tied up the game and as I always say, “nobody asks how, they ask how many”.

The Panthes really controlled the pace of play through the first two period. They outshot the Caps 23-11 in those two periods and kept the high-flying Capitals to only 4 shots in the 2nd.

After TJ Oshie’s booming hit on Sam Bennett (and no it was not suspension worthy – while I am a Panthers fan, I am a hockey fan first) which led to Kuznetsov’s breakaway goal, I was as disheartened as the rest of you. I said “oh shit, here we go again”; however, a miracle happened in the form of a former Sabre. Sam Reinhart said, “let there be overtime” and there was and it was good.

While I was still nervous that the Panthers would end up coming back to Sunrise in down 3-1 in the series, I could feel the momentum shift back to the Cats.

My fears proved to be unjustified as just under 5 minutes in to OT Mr. Carter would follow up his own rebound and bury the game winner.

What I liked about Reinhart and Verhaeghe’s late game goals is the fact that they were playoff style goals. The boys didn’t try to get pretty, but instead they threw pucks on the net and then got the second opportunities. Reinhart took the blocked/deflected shot and fired it past Samsonov while Verhaeghe got his own rebound and popped it in to the net.

These are the types of goals that win you playoff games and series. Not trying to get too cute and make Sports Center top plays, but the simple blue-collar goals of throwing the puck to the net and banging bodies until you get the rebound.

I also think that blue-collar style of play could drastically help their underperforming PP which has now gone 0-13 in the series. If they do not figure this out soon, they are going to be in store for another disappointing season.

Last night the Cats went 0 for 4 on the PP. If they could have gotten 1 goal in any of those 4 opportunities then it could have changed the momentum of that game. But instead, the PP was cold and the Cats were not generating the necessary offense.

Washington is doing a great job playing the trap and not allowing a lot of “easy” chances the Cats were getting during the regular season. If the Cats want to win and beat the trap, they need to play blue-collar hockey. Stop trying the high speed, finesse style of play, but instead get pucks on the net and get the rebounds.

If the Panthers could play this style of hockey, it would force Washington to play from behind like they did in game 2. They could then get the pretty goals because Washington would have to take chances and expose their goalies which are their biggest known weakness.

In summary, the Cats looked good last night and could be deadly if they could get anything going on their PP. It is time to quit playing “pretty hockey” and get back to what wins in the playoffs, gritty hockey.

Let’s go Cats!

As always fans, in Zito we trust!

PS: Disco the only cesspool and swamp that needs to be drained is in DC!

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