The last time the Florida Panthers faced off against former coach Pete DeBoer and his New Jersey Devils, the Cats overcame an early 3-0 deficit for a dramatic 4-3 win. Tuesday at the Bank Atlantic Center, it was the Panthers turn to cough up a multi-goal lead as a 2-0 second period lead turned into a 3-2 shootout loss, giving DeBoer his first win against his former club.
The Panthers were coming off of Sunday’s 6-1 unmitigated disaster of a loss against the New York Rangers and really needed to get rolling early. Despite spending four of the first 20 minutes in the box, the Cats got on the board first. Devils rookie Adam Larsson made the proverbial rookie mistake when his blind clearing pass was intercepted by Stephen Weiss. Weiss skated in alone on Martin Brodeur until he got him to commit, then dropped a pass for Kris Versteeg, who put a between-the-legs flip (in English soccer, it would’ve been called ‘cheeky’) into an open cage for a 1-0 first period lead.
In the second period, it was Versteeg who would double the lead. With the Panthers shorthanded for the third time in the game, Versteeg picked the pocket of Henrik Tallinder at the center line, raced in alone on Brodeur and beat him high-glove side to make it 2-0. The Devils didn’t wait long to begin their comeback. Fifty-four seconds later, Patrik Elias collected a deflected pass and beat Jose Theodore from the right side to make it 2-1.
It was from there the Panthers game seemed to leave them. The Devils controlled much of the play for the rest of the game, outshooting the Cats 21-11 from the second period on. Ed Jovanovski acknowledged that the Panthers can’t afford lackluster effort:
“We’ve always said our biggest asset is our speed, the way we forecheck the puck. When we don’t have that, we’re an easy team to play against. Teams breakout on us pretty good and the result of that, we don’t create many opportunities for power plays.”
The Devils got the equalizer midway through the third when Tallinder, atoning for his turnover that led to Florida’s second goal, fired what looked like was intended to be a pass off the boards behind Theodore’s net. The ricochet landed right at the stick of the charging Zach Parise, who easily fired into an open net. Late in the game, it was only the heroics of Theodore that helped the Panthers get a point, as he made a crucial save with 1.4 seconds left.
In the extra frame, the Devils showed more interest in going to a shootout than they were at winning it at 4-on-4. And the Panthers did their best to take advantage of Jersey’s sudden passiveness as they were able to register five shots, but Brodeur (and the refs swallowing their whistles) helped send the game to a shootout, where, once again, the Cats couldn’t get an attempt past the opposing goalie. Tomas Fleischmann and Versteeg were stopped on their attempts, while Ilya Kovalchuk and Elias were able to get theirs past Theodore for the 3-2 win.
If there’s a silver lining in this one, it’s that the Panthers got a point in the standings when they played poorly for more than one half of the game. But after Sunday’s game, they needed a little more than a silver lining, especially against a team on the back end of a road back-to-back. And worse yet, they could’ve stolen two points had they ability to perform in the shootout. This was the fifth Florida contest to go to a shootout. They’ve only managed one goal in 14 attempts and that’s the reason they are 1-4 in these games and that’s far too many extra points to leave out there for someone else to take. And now, with the loss, the Panther are on a three game losing streak, although two of those losses have brought them a point. With many of the remaining games this month at home, the Panthers have to take advantage and pile up the points. They’ll get a day off on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames and old friends Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester.
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Topics: Bank Atlantic Center, Calgary Flames, Ed Jovanovski, Florida Panthers, Henrik Tallinder, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jay Bouwmeester, Jose Theodore, Kris Versteeg, Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, Olli Jokinen, Patrik Elias, Pete Deboer, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischamann, Zach Parise