Wow, what a game! That was the most intense, dramatic, and gripping game we’ve seen in a while. It had everything…stars playing well, scintillating goaltending, scrums that turned into skirmishes, high drama in the final seconds, a post game near brawl, big hits, and enough melodrama to make even the most casual fan jump off the couch. This was epic stuff, warriors pounding on each other, every square inch of ice was contested, a true 60 minute war and a game worthy of a playoff Game 7 and instant classic status.
With the Avs and Panthers being #1 and #2 in the league in scoring, it was unexpected to see a defensive struggle turn into a 60 demonstration of sound, furious, smart, mistake free hockey. It took 39:35 before the first goal was scored, a prelude to a truly enthralling third period. The final frame featured four goals, some nasty scrums, and almost saw the Avs squander a two goal third period lead, something intolerable. But Florida knotting the game at 2-2 just ratcheted up the tension, making the final 9:45 truly special. Neither team has anything to regret as both sides left it all out there on the ice. The commitment and energy levels were admirable and stunning. The 6 on 4 Florida siege on the Avs net at the end of the game was as exciting 60 seconds of hockey as you’re ever going to see. Bodies were flying around as if they were stepping on landmines.
But for Erik Johnson’s heroics in front of the net in the final 2:00, Florida almost assuredly would’ve tied the game and forced OT. EJ was eradicating the Panthers’ attempts at camping the goal mouth with just nasty cross checks that sent bodies tumbling to the ice. Then as if on wings of angels, he stole a goal with a timely crease clearance of a puck that was all but in. Johnson was immense and absolutely brilliant.
The hat trick for Burakovsky was the highlight on the game. He’s a sniper worthy of a reincarnation of Vasily Zaitsev in the Battle of Stalingrad. His wrister is almost prettier than Jude Law, almost. Burakovsky is rapidly playing his way into a hefty contract for next season, hopefully with the Avs. With five goals in the last two games, Burakovsky is, as those swarthy Russians would say, en fuego.
Mikko Rantanen was sensational playing with a chip on his shoulder all while dishing out three assists. But his most exciting moment came after the final buzzer when he took exception to Brandon Montour waving his stick around his face. Mikko snapped, started a fracas, got into it with Montour and Jonathan Huberdeau, was pulled off by two officials, and yelled a stream of f bombs that would’ve made Martin Scorsese blush. Love this side of Rantanen, love the snarl and attitude.
Let’s dispense with the Ryan Lomberg hit on Jacob MacDonald. It was a hard, uncompromising check but there wasn’t anything cynical about it. MacDonald simply had his head down while Lomberg was making a b-line for the puck. There was no targeting, just a clean and viscous hit that fortunately didn’t require anything more than a further eval in the locker room for MacDonald.