When the Florida Panthers look back at Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, they certainly can’t pin the defeat on a lack of opportunity. The Panthers power play unit, one of the strengths of the young season, failed to convert on all seven of its chances, including a 4:00 minute chance that also included :40 of a 5-on-3 advantage.
The blown opportunities came early for the Panthers, who found themselves on the power play just two minutes into the game when James van Riemsdyk went off for a hold. After not converting on that one, the Flyers gave the Cats an early second crack with a man advantage when Harry Zolnierczyk took a seat for a check to the head. A Kris Versteeg trip :50 later abruptly ended that power play ending another huge chance to grab an early lead for a fourth straight game. And the Flyers would make the Panthers pay for not converting. An unchecked Daniel Briere corralled a rebound of a van Riemsdyk effort and threw in a sharp angle shot that found its way past Jose Theodore, who had been knocked down during the scramble around the net. Good teams make you pay when you don’t take advantage of their mistakes and that’s what happened in the first period.
The Flyers doubled their lead in the second period when Mike Weaver was caught deep in the offensive zone, leading to a 2-on-1 breakaway for Philly. Jakub Voracek rifled a perfect cross-ice pass past Dmitry Kulikov to Braydon Coburn, who easily drilled it into an open cage to make it 2-0. The Panthers showed a little bit of push back when newly-called up Evgeny Dadonov raced past the Philly defense to beat Ilya Bryzgalov short side with a shot from the left face-off circle to make it 2-1. Dadonov scored his first goal last season against the Flyers early in his call-up.
Early in the third, the Panthers received another golden opportunity to not only tie the game, but to take it over. With Jaromir Jagr already in the penalty box, Max Talbot hit Brian Campbell with a high-stick that drew blood, which gave the Cats a four minute power play, to include a 5-on-3 man advantage for the first :40. Not only were the Panthers unable to capitalize, but somehow Matt Read snuck out for a breakaway, forcing Jason Garrison to hook him and force a penalty shot. It was somewhat questionable whether it deserved a penalty shot, but anytime you let someone get in behind you to race in on your goalie, you’re not doing yourself any favors. To add insult to injury, Stephen Weiss protested the call by apparently offering something more than seasons greetings to the official who made the call and was given two 10 minute misconducts, ending his evening early. Weiss‘ ejection left the Panthers with only 10 healthy forwards, as Jack Skille was injured earlier in the game and did not return.
Read‘s penalty shot initially hit Theodore’s pad but rolled in to make it 3-1. The Panthers continued to whack away at Bryzgalov’s net but weren’t able to get another tally until Tomas Fleischmann was able to push a rebound in with 7.4 seconds left. Somehow, the Cats were able to get a decent shot on net in the remaining seconds, but couldn’t pull off the miracle finish.
The loss drops the Panthers home record this season to 2-2-3. Part of the goal this season, other than to make the playoffs, is to draw fans to the arena, be it new fans or those who gave up on this teams years ago. Losing five of seven at home is certainly no way to go about this, despite early overall success. At some point, you have to start sending your home crowd out to their cars after a game with a smile on their face, especially if you’re interested in getting the casual fan to want to come back. The maddening part is that with the exception of the Buffalo game on 10/20, they’ve had ample opportunity to win every one of those games they lost. It’s made even more puzzling because they show the ability to close on the road like you would expect them to do at home, in front of a home crowd. Whatever the fix to this problem is, the Panthers better implement it quickly as they’ll play four big home games against Eastern Conference opponents during the annual Thanksgiving feast that starts this Saturday. But, before that, the Cats will head back on the road to face the Dallas Stars and St Louis Blues during the week.
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