For a record tying ninth straight season and a record setting 10th straight season, the Florida Panthers will be golfing, swimming, playing tennis or pocket pool while 16 other NHL teams participate in the postseason. Giving up four goals in the third period to the hard charging New York Rangers cemented the chances of Florida going to the post season for the first time since the Lincoln Clinton administration.
A game which I attended, and rather wish I hadn’t, with the NCAA Final Four being televised, I was treated to another lackluster performance which saw Florida basically play prevent defence the entire game. Something that has been going on for way too long with this team. The first period was absolutely forgetable with a total of 10 shots on goal by both teams combined. Save for the tilt of Panther agitator Nick Tarnasky and the Rangers Aaron Voros, nothing else happend. Really, nothing!
In the second period however Florida decided, by accident maybe, that they would take what little control of the game they could, and defencemen Keith Ballard scored his eighth goal of the season to put the Panthers ahead 1-0. It was only the second goal in two games by Florida, and both have been scored by Ballard. A defenceman.
Note to any Panther’s executive reading this: WE NEED SOME OFFENCE!
The Panthers bombarded peppered Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 19 shots on goal and for the most part he was never really tested, as a couple open nets were missed and a few shots went sailing above his head. Florida went into their defensive shell that was taught to them by former coach and GM Jacques Martin, and players obviously left the book on forechecking and persistency on their beach chairs.
Scott Clemmensen started for the second consecutive time as Tomas Vokoun continued to sit and stew about a season gone wrong. Clemmensen made 23 saves to follow up his 36 stop masterpiece against the Bruins on Thursday night. Clemmensen wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great, and the Rangers also received a bit of help from a couple giveaways by Florida.
After Marc Staal scored 18 seconds into the third to tie the game, Panther’s center and my favorite whipping boy Little Stevie tried to split the defence in his zone near the blue line with a cute stick manuever, but could’nt pull it off and Brandon Prust pushed home a lose puck in front of Clemmensen to take the lead. I yelled from my seat, “Hey Stevie, put your purse down and quit trying to be so fancy”! He didn’t hear me, as late in the third with Clemmensen pulled, he tripped on the red line apparently trying to put his handbag in a more comfortable place, giving up the puck, and Marion Gaborik easily made it 4-1.
The Rangers who have won for the fifth time in six games, now have scored nine goals in their last two games and are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Philly has the tiebreaker edge with two more wins and each team has four games remaining.
Olli Jokinen, former Panther Captain, returned to Florida for the first time since since the 2007-2008 season to a modest welcome. Good to see him, but he was a non factor.
The Panthers have four games remaining ending their season with a home and home matchup against cross state rival Tampa Bay this coming Saturday and Sunday. The only thing on the line now, is draft position.
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