Not sure where or how to start with this. Problem is we’ve seen this before, you’ve read it before, and I’ve talked about it before. A tough, tough loss again. A game in which the Florida Panthers came out controlling the play, pushing the Columbus Blue Jackets and pressuring their defence, went bad. Slowly. Again.
David Booth opened the scoring for the Panthers early in the first period when he buried a rebound off a shot by Dmitry Kulikov, which found it’s way to Mike Santorelli before Booth put it past Columbus goaltender Steve Mason. Then at 8:21 of the first, Radek Dvorak took a shot from the right circle that Mason made the initial save on, and Cory Stillman who was standing in the crease, used his head to get the puck into the net, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead. At this point you had the feeling it could end up being a rout. The Cats controlled the play for almost the entire first period and at one point were out shooting Columbus 11-1. For the 10th time in the last 13 games the Panthers took the early lead in a game.
The Jackets looked tired and were displaying the behavior of a team that couldn’t wait to get this over with. And then the second period started and as I watched the plays develop from where I was sitting, you could see things were going to be different, and if the Panthers didn’t put their foot on the gas pedal, it was going to get ugly. Columbus coach Scott Arniel must have tossed around some chairs and water bottles cause you could see the Jackets taking it to the Panthers right off the opening draw in the second period. More physical, looking much faster and deciding that they needed to step up. The tide changed. Slowly. but it changed.
The Panthers have a knack of letting you back in. Kinda like the girl you fell in love with that broke up with you, then wanted to come back, and you said yes. Even though you knew the result would be the same. A two goal lead has been said to be the worst lead in the NHL. The Florida Panthers are becoming the example of that on a nightly basis. It’s almost as if an opposing team senses that it’s ok if we’re down by two, let’s ramp it up, get one, and then the pressure will be on them. Not us.
When asked about this behavior pattern, this is what Panther head coach Pete DeBoer had to say:
“This is a repeat of a lot of other nights,” Panthers coach Peter De Boer said. “We get the lead, have some opportunities to extend it, we don’t, and the other team pushes back.”
Defenceman Bryan Allen added his assessment of the situation:
“I don’t even know what to say. This is inexcusable,” defenceman Bryan Allen said. “I don’t even know if it’s a let down. We’re just letting teams hang around. If we get that third goal, it’s a different game. We need to find a way to hold on to leads whether its 2-0 or 3-0. We need to pull these games out.”
Fedor Tyutin scored with 1:19 left in the third period off a shot from inside the blue line on a play that Rusty Olesz failed to clear the puck on. And you could feel the tension in the arena start building, and a collective oh, oh was said in every person’s mind. Rat Packer Dave and I were hoping that we wouldn’t see another repeat performance of the lost lead, but our hopes were dashed.
With 53 seconds left Antoine Vermette tied it up as Columbus had the extra attacker with Steve Mason out of his net. Unbelievable. In overtime Jackets forward R.J. Umberger scored on a power play goal as the puck went off the shaft of his stick from a shot by Grant Clitsome, and the jubilant Blue Jackets made the nightmare complete.
Tomas Vokoun who had made his first start since sitting for the last three games was not happy afterwards and had this to say:
“I don’t know what it is,” Vokoun said. “I’ve been here a long time and this isn’t a [new] event. It’s happened a few times. I don’t what to tell you. If I knew what it was, I would figure it out for everyone here. It’s costing us points and it’s not good.”
“You’ve got to bury a team,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to stick a fork in them, and we don’t. That’s been our problem all year. We don’t have the killer instinct. That leads to the late game collapses. We’re not giving up breakaways. The goals we give up are scrambles and results of not finishing off the other team when we get the chance.”
Make sure you visit my dance partner Mary O’Malley today for the Union Blue version of this. Fire That Cannon. She and I made a bet. I lost. She’s not very sympathetic!
In closing let me say that for as much as we should be content with getting the 8 out of 10 points, that’s not by issue. The way we are getting there is. That’s a problem and it needs to be fixed. I know it, you know, and believe me, they know it too.
Dave and I talked today and believe us when we say it, this team has the ability to make the playoffs. But there are some changes that need to take place, both on and off the ice. The last 1o years of problems are over with and have nothing to do with the people here today. This is a new regime and a different roster. There has to be a different outcome.
Remember this quote: “Playing tense is debilitating. Playing with intensity is energizing”. If you like it, email me. I’ll tell you who said it.
Don’t forget to vote for Panther Ice Dancer Meg in the Ice Dancer Contest. Hit the like button. I think she’s leading!
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