The Florida Panthers may have been eliminated from the post-season Sunday night, but they didn’t go down without a fight. But even as their season ended, Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau may have offered up what could go down as one of the nicest goals of the entire playoffs.
Late in the first period of a scoreless Game 6, the Islanders turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Jussi Jokinen waited for the play to go onside before dishing the puck over to Vincent Trocheck. Islanders winger Shane Prince went right at Trocheck, but the Panthers center made a slick pass over Prince’s stick and right onto the tape of Huberdeau as he entered the Islanders’ zone.
Huberdeau at first looked as if he was going to attempt to drive to the outside on defenseman Travis Hamonic, but instead threw on the brakes and pulled up. With barely any room to operate and Hamonic attempting to knock the puck away, Huberdeau reached back for the puck and fired an incredible shot up and over the shoulder of Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss, all while falling to the ice:
Considering how impressive that goal is, it’s incredibly hard to believe that was the first playoff goal of Huberdeau’s career. That’s the type of goal you’d expect from a veteran, not a 22-year-old in his sixth career playoff game.
Huberdeau’s goal stood as the only marker in the game for more than 40 minutes, but with less than one minute left in the third period, Islanders captain John Tavares tied the game 1-1 with a goal of his own. In the second overtime, Tavares ended the game with his second of the night and sent the Islanders on to the second round of the post-season for the first time in more than two decades.
If you’re the Panthers, though, Huberdeau’s play throughout the campaign and into the playoffs is inspiring. The fourth-year winger had the best offensive output of his career and eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career. Huberdeau continues to improve, and it may be only a matter of time before the 2011 third overall pick is scoring brilliant goals like his Game 6 tally with regularity.