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Matt Cooke has 3 goals in four games. Let that sink in. Photo Source: Gene J Puskar/Associaited Press

The Day After: Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

“Great moments are born from great opportunity” Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks in Miracle, prior to US-USSR Olympic Semi-final

While it is certainly hyperbole to compare Game 2 of 82 to a game as big as the Miracle On Ice, the Florida Panthers certainly had a great opportunity to had to put a positive light on their national profile Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. And in their only national television appearance of the season, it certainly isn’t an understatement to say the Cats didn’t make a great moment out of their great opportunity.

Like Scott wrote after the game, this one definitely had plenty of ugly moments. Jose Theodore allowed his first goals as a Panther, but didn’t get much help from the skaters in front of him as there were bad breakdowns and mistakes on all of the goals.

The Panthers had hoped to take advantage of a Penguins team that was playing its fourth game in six nights and playing without its two best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but the Pens looked like a well-oiled machine, as they should have. The team has played 36 of its last 39 game without its top two players and has played at the same high level. There’s a reason Dan Bylsma is the reigning Jack Adams award winner. His club outworked and outsmarted the Panthers for much of the first period, which led to a 1-0 lead at the intermission.

In the second period, the Panthers came out with a bit more jump in their step, despite allowing another goal to face a 2-0 deficit midway through the second. Moments later, the Cats got the board as Marcel Goc banged home a rebound off a Jack Skille shot for his first for his new team. The visitors applied some more pressure to the Pittsburgh net but couldn’t get one past Marc-Andre Fleury. But it was the Penguins who would score before the intermission as they took advantage of a bad Tomas Fleischmann error behind his own net. His pass was deflected to a wide open Richard Park who blasted it on net only to find it ricochet off a quickly retreating Dmitry Kulikov and into the net for a 3-1 lead at the break.

Fleischmann did his best to make up for that error in the third when he buried a sweet backhanded feed from Stephen Weiss to once again put the Panthers within one. But that’s as close as they would get. James Neal took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by Scottie Upshall to get his second goal of the young season and give us our final of 4-2.

While the outcome was disappointing for Panthers fans, the team continued to battle despite playing against a better team playing in their home opener. If anything, they got a lesson of what type of team they will need to be to win consistently from Bylsma’s bunch. A team without superstars playing harder and smarter than their opponent. There will be better days and probably some worse ones along the way as this team tries to find its bearings. At the very least, they kept battling despite not playing their best hockey.

As for the telecast itself, a kind word about the Panthers was very scarce in the intermissions from Versus analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Not that the teams deserved heaping amounts of praise, but it seemed that the duo went out of their way to not say anything remotely positive. While Milbury praised the Penguins penalty kill (deservedly so), he failed to mention that the Florida PK has also not allowed a goal. Instead, he said the Panthers ‘need to go work on their special teams’. That’s right Mike, do what you do best and look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Next up, the return of the red home sweaters as the team makes their home debut on the season Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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