New coaches, same slow start for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers gave up two goals in the games first two-plus minutes in Peter Horachek’s head coaching debut. Florida would make it close but a second period 5-on-3 Senators goal would ultimately proved to be the difference in the 3-2 loss to Ottawa.
Horachek was handed the reins as Florida’s interim head coach after the team fired Kevin Dineen and his assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay on Friday morning following the Panthers 4-1 loss to the Bruins. Horachek’s staff was rounded out by new assistant coaches John Madden and Brian Skrudland.
The coaching changes brought some hope for a turnaround in Florida but within the first few minutes it became clear that this is still the same old Panthers team. Just 1:45 into the first period Kyle Turris was able to sneak a soft shot past Tim Thomas who was making his first start since leaving the Panthers’ October 22nd game against the Blackhawks with a lower-body injury. Turris’ goal came just moments after Thomas made a good save on a Bobby Ryan breakaway.
The Sens struck again just 19 seconds later when a defensive turnover led to a Mike Zibanejad goal and a 2-0 Ottawa lead. The hectic start to the game continued at 4:04 when Nick Bjugstad got on the board for the Panthers with his second goal of the season. Bjugstad gathered the puck in the offensive zone corner after a Sen’s defensive turnover, and used his big frame to force his way to the front of the net to beat Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner. Tomas Kopecky got the assist on the goal, his first point of the season.
The Sens stretched their lead to 3-1 in the second period scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. Not only were the Senators up two men but Thomas had lost his stick which allowed Clarke MacArthur to sneak a bad angled shot in-between Thomas and the near post.
Marcel Goc‘s fifth goal of the season, midway through the third period, got the Panthers within one goal but that was as close as they would come the rest of the way. The Panthers had two power plays in the games final seven minutes but were unable to get any opportunities against a hyper-aggressive Senators penalty kill.
Thomas made 28 saves on 31 shots in his return from injury while Lehner stopped 25 of 27. The Panthers have now lost eight straight games but they will not have too much time to feel sorry for themselves as they travel to New York to take on the Rangers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. You can find Panthers vs. NY Rangers tickets here.