Source: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be in the NHL for years to come, and on Friday night at the BankAtlantic Center the supremely-talented teenager made a commanding first impression on the Florida Panthers.
The 18-year-old rookie center's smooth backhand goal in the fourth round of the shootout lifted the young Edmonton Oilers to a 2-1 win over the Panthers, limiting the division-leaders to only one standings point.
On a night where the second-place Washington Capitals choked away a 3-0 home lead to lose to Winnipeg 4-3 in overtime, the Panthers were able to hold their four-point advantage atop the Southeast division, but were unable to add any additional cushion.
"That's a very disappointing loss for our team," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said after the game." I don't like playing the scoreboard game. I like taking care of our business and tonight we just didn't do that."
Jose Theodore stopped 20 shots and Jason Garrison set a new single-season goal scoring record for a Panthers defenseman in the overtime loss.
The Panthers were an inch away from avoiding the shootout, as Stephen Weiss' three-quarter ice pass to Kris Versteeg sprung the winger on a breakaway from the attacking blue line in in the final 10 seconds of the overtime period, effectively starting the shootout early.
One-on-one with Edmonton keeper Devan Dubnyk, Versteeg was stoned by the goalie's left pad on his initial shot, but his poke of the puck slid it across the goal crease, off the right post, and back into play as the horn sounded to end regulation.
Dubnyk would make four more stops in the shootout to set up Nugent-Hopkins' game-winner.
"We just need to produce more offense," Dineen said. "There are no shortcuts right now. We're looking to maybe take a little easier path, to try and take the highway instead of the dirt road — that's just not going to happen this time of year."
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