The game was all but over, until the Comeback Cats showed up.
Down 6-2 to start the third period in New Jersey, fans of both teams would have told you to put this game on ice. The Panthers have staged several comebacks this season, but this game felt different. Whether it was the 12:30 start or a late night before, the team simply had no juice through the first 40 minutes.
Whatever was wrong, they fixed it during the second intermission.
The Panthers reminded everyone a game is never over against the Comeback Cats, and turned what might have been the worst showing of the season into their greatest resilience story to date. Four goals in the third and the game winner in overtime left the home crowd stunned. For the Cats, it was nothing they didn’t already know they were capable of.
“There was no doubt in the room. We’ve been doing that all year. This was a big win for us” said Brandon Montour, who’s third period goal started the comeback. “The game’s not over until the 60 minutes are done. We believe in each other in that room.”
Admittedly, the team did not earn the “Comeback Cats” moniker for nothing, but this game is likely their most impressive. For 40 minutes, the team earned the 6-2 score they faced. In fact, one could argue that this was one of their worst games of the season. Knowing that another game awaits them tomorrow, most teams would not have even had the energy or ability to make this game competitive.
The Panthers are not most teams, and this year has proven that. They have their eyes set on a much bigger prize than winning their first round series for the first time since 1996 — they want to win it all. They want their names etched on the Stanley Cup for eternity. Games like Saturday’s show they can do just that.
Managing to beat a young and motivated Devils team on their home ice by only showing up for the third period marks a team confident and talented enough to go deep into the playoffs. They’re good and they know it. Head coach Andrew Brunette said after the game, “We’ve shown we’re a gritty team, we have resilience… You felt it on the bench after we made it 6-4 that anything was possible. A proud group of guys that are never out of it.”
If anyone needs more of a reason to believe in this team, just look at Saturday’s game. While the true test for this team lies in the playoffs, they have earned their status as a legitimate cup contender. In a season that has raised the bar for the franchise, the team keeps finding new ways to impress.
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