Yes, that was rough. That was about as rough as any home game in quite a few years.
Even in the new NHL, three-goal leads at home are supposed to be wins any day of the week, against any opponent or with any added significance in the game. When you consider the context from which the game was played, where a win gave the Panthers the Southeast Division crown, the loss becomes even more upsetting.
Yeah, it sucked. I was there. But that doesn’t mean I’m totally upset by last night’s game. The Winnipeg Jets came from behind and stole the game, but they didn’t “win” the game. The Panthers did enough to win the game, and probably deserved to, but only a couple components were missing, and that made the difference.
The big empty hole for the Panthers was the goaltending, something we haven’t been able to say truthfully pretty much all year. Jose Theodore just didn’t have it yesterday. The first two goals were not his fault, but one could make the case that the next three were. Goal number three had the puck deflect off Theodore’s glove and into the net. The fourth goal had Jose off his angle and shallow in his own net when the shot came. The fifth goal was almost exactly the same. For the first time all year, the Panthers effort in front and on D was sabotaged by the man in net.
But hey, everything else looked pretty darn good in that game. The offense was clicking all night, displaying creativity and puck possession on every line. Even the defense looked good most of the time, hystlingto break up plays and doing well on offense the cycle the puck at the point. The first two goals for Florida were the result of good plays by defenseman: just getting the puck from the point on net. Everything looked good, ready for the playoffs in fact.
Even better than the play of the Panthers was the atmosphere within the arena. The BAC drew a comparatively huge crowd, comprised almost totally by Panther fans. The place was rocking, especially after Kopecky’s game-tying goal. More playoff-like atmosphere, sonething missing from Florida for more than a decade. I hope the game’s result does not drive fans away from wanting to come back.
Finally, the last thing to be happy about is the effort put forth by the Panthers. They got off to an amazing start, and even after coughing up the three-goal lead, they kept chipping away until Kopecky tied the game. There wasn’t any quit in the team – you can’t blame them for lack of trying. They fed off the energy of the crowd, and it kept them going even after disaster struck.
And one last point to make: the Panthers’ magic number is down to 1. Any Washington loss or Panthers point will clinch the division for Florida. So one more overtime loss will give the Panthers the Southeast, and Lord knows we’ve done that enough times.
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