….Breathe…focus….breathe…okay I think I can get through this now without smashing my laptop. The Florida Panthers are fast becoming the masters of the disappointing loss. In a back and forth game against the Lightning, Tampa Bay emerged victorious with a 6-5 overtime victory. The Panthers blew a 5-3 third period lead to send the game to overtime for the second time in three games. In both instances the Panthers ended up losing. Today’s loss was especially excruciating as Tampa Bay scored the game tying goal with only 10 seconds left in the period. Florida is now on a streak of three straight home overtime losses, and oh yea, lest I forget, the team also extended its losing streak to four games which is only their second worst losing streak 14 games into the season having also suffered through a five game streak.
Usually I would say something along the lines of “well at least the Panthers picked up a point” or I would point to the fact that the Panthers have picked up points in three straight games as well as seven of their last eight. But today? Today I am sick of it. I am sick of seeing Panther leads evaporate, I am sick of going into the extra period know the Panthers are almost guaranteed to lose, and I am sick about hearing how the Panthers would be exposed as the bottom feeder team that they are if the NHL did away with the “loser’s point”.
Think about this, last season the Panthers lost 18 games in overtime and the shootout, the most in the NHL. Their actual record, i.e. wins and losses, was 38-44; the Panthers were really a sub .500 team. They won one less game than the Buffalo Sabres who finished 9th in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs. I get that there is something to be said about being even after three periods and a case can be made that both teams deserve at least one point in these instances but right now, I do not want to hear about any of that. At this point in the season the Panthers have four losses in overtime, tied for most in the NHL. Seeing a trend here? While the points are nice, the losses are morale shattering.
Okay I am venting, lets get back to the game. With the second period coming to a close and the Panthers down 3-2, Jerred Smithson scored a huge momentum swinging goal, with only four seconds left in the period, to tie the game at three. Florida would carry that momentum into the third period receiving goals from Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky within the first four minutes. Counting Smithson’s goal, Florida scored three times in under three and a half minutes to go from a one goal deficit to a 5-3 third period lead.
Things were looking good for Florida, but as any Panther fan knows, the team had a long way to go before they were out of the woods. While the old maxim that a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, may not be technically true, this was one of those instances where you can understand how the idea gained so much credence. The Cats were up 5-3 but there were still 15 minutes left in the third and were up against the NHL’s highest scoring team, chockfull of players with the ability to score on a moments notice.
And score they did. Steven Stamkos ripped a one time slap shot from his favorite spot, the face off dot, past Jose Theodore. The goal game on a Lightning four on three power play and was Stamkos’ second goal of the game, ninth of the season. At this point, with 12 minutes remaining, I remember thinking to myself that if I had to bet on a team to win I would probably pick the Lightning. They have too many scorers, and the Panthers have such checkered resume when it comes to closing out games. I also should mention, my confidence in any Panthers goalie at this point is zero… probably less than zero. Yes Theodore made some good saves and yes he did face 36 shots but come on! At some point allowing six goals every game becomes unacceptable (excuse the hyperbole, I am upset).
Anyway, to make a long story short, Teddy Purcell finds himself open in the slot with ten seconds left and ties the game. game goes to overtime. defense breaks down. Benoit Pouliot taps in the game winner. Panthers lose. computer smashed. Saturday ruined. Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go angrily shoot hoops for a couple hours.
Post Game Points:
- Dineen went with an interesting line to take the offensive zone face-off with less than a minute remaining in the second period. Smithson took the draw flanked by Huberdeau and Kovalev. Even though the Lightning gained possession off the face-off and cleared the zone, the Panthers eventually got a goal from Smithson with time winding down in the second. Dineen has done this a couple time this season, where he will mix and match lines at the end of a period. The most memorable instance was Dineen putting Shore-Matthias-Smithson out to take a late period offensive zone draw presumably because each of those players are skilled at taking face-offs so the team could afford to have a center thrown out of the circle. The reasoning behind the Smithson-Huberdeau-Kovalev combo not as lucid but whatever Dineen was thinking, it worked and the Panthers got a goal out of it.
- I talked about Shawn Matthias in my Game Day Preview, saying his hard work would pay off and he should get on the scoresheet today. Well, thank you Shawn Matthias for making me look smart. Matthias scored the Panthers first goal and got an assist on the team’s second goal which was scored by Jack Skille.
- I have been noticing Erik Gudbranson choosing to use a wrist shot from the point over a slap shot. While not as powerful as the slapper, Gudbranson’s wrist shots have their advantages. They are easier to get on net, and easier to place through tight shooting lanes. They also allow Panthers players to get sticks on pucks and deflect shots into the net. This is precisely what happened Tuesday against the Caps when Gudbranson’s wrist shot was deflected by Peter Mueller AND Jonathan Huberdeau before settling in the back of the net.
- Huberdeau’s goal today was his sixth of the season. He currently leads the Panther in goals. While expectations were high for Huberdeau, to have him come into his rookie season as a 19 year old and immediately be leading his team in goals is pretty exceptional.
- The Panthers will try to bounce back from their latest loss Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This will be the last of the Panthers four game home span during which they have so far gone 0-0-3.