It couldn’t have set up better for the Florida Panthers. The team with the uncanny knack of scoring the clutch late goal to tie or take the lead late was awarded a penalty shot (for a displaced net)with 25 seconds left and trailing the Phoenix Coyotes. Stephen Weiss raced in on Coyotes netminder Jason LaBarbera and used the same backhand move he used successfully against Calgary in the shootout on Friday, beat the goalie and……it stopped on the goal line. No goal. Twenty-five seconds later, the Panthers skated off the ice of the Bank Atlantic Center without a point for the first time since November 13th against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As if the point-less loss wasn’t enough, the beleaguered Panther forward corps took another blow as Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm were both injured in the contest. While it’s unclear what happened to Sturm, he did miss the third period. Samuelsson took a shoulder from Coyotes captain Shane Doan and fell backwards into the boards. He laid there motionless for a period of time before he made any noticeable movements. After a few minutes, he got up and was assisted off the ice by the Panthers training staff. While the best news was that Samuelsson was up, that makes he and Sturm the fifth and six forwards injured. While it’s not known how long either will be out, even if it’s one game, it puts an even greater strain on a depleted group.
But the Panthers, nor the officials, did them any favors as they were charged with committing seven minor penalties, with the Coyotes taking full advantage of two of them for their goals. Former Panther Ray Whitney converted a long 5-on-3 opportunity with six seconds left in the first period for their first goal. At 9:02 of the second period, Radim Vrbata converted an Erik Gudbranson delay-of-game penalty (the DUMBEST penalty in hockey, have to rescind that one) when he blasted a slap shot that trickled past Jose Theodore and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Towards the end of the period, Brian Campbell would score the only goal for the Cats on the night when he took a pass from Kris Versteeg, put a move on at the top of the right face off circle and blasted a slap shot that just found it’s way into the net.
Despite the unluckiness of Weiss’ penalty shop, the Panther did have several other opportunities to tie the game up, but Labarbera, who replaced the injured Mike Smith in the third period, made a few big saves down the stretch to preserve the win.
Head coach Kevin Dineen was critical of the officials following the loss(check out our You Tube page for all of his postgame comments) and while you can’t always fully blame a loss on the officials, they certainly didn’t help the Panthers out at all. The Coyotes enjoyed a 7-4 edge on power plays, and some of the calls seemed iffy at best. That said, the Panthers have been their own worst enemies when it comes to staying out of the box over the past ten games. Tuesday, it came back to haunt them as the late-game heroics we’ve come to expect from these Florida Panthers came up just inches short. Had Weiss’ penalty shot come with 25 second gone in the period, the ice is clean enough that it probably slides past the red line, but because it came late, the snow on the ice was just enough to keep it out.
The Panthers will close up the pre-holiday schedule with a quick two game road trip that begins in Ottawa on Thursday.
You check out some postgame video on The Rat Trick You Tube Page here.
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