Panthers Can’t Close Out Capitals, Fall In OT
There aren’t many times in the National Hockey League that you score five goals, even strength goals at that, and lose the game. And, there also aren’t many times that you have a two goal lead with just over five minutes to play and lose. Yet, that’s just what the Florida Panthers did in Tuesday’s loss 6-5 overtime loss to the last place Washington Capitals. The heartbreaking loss comes three days after this same Capitals teams ran the Cats out of DC with a 5-0 thrashing.
Washington rallied down two goals in game’s final five minutes with goals from Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin to send it to overtime. Once in the extra frame, Troy Brouwer only needed 32 seconds to convert on a Dmitry Kulikov turnover into a breakaway game winner. It was a night that Florida should’ve collected two points but, instead, gave one back and helped give two to Washington.
The result negates a tremendous effort from the second line of Jonathan Huberdeau-Drew Shore-Peter Mueller that saw the trio combine for six points. Huberdeau connected on two tip-ins to give him the team lead in goals (5) while Shore, who has always seemed to be on the wrong end of an amazing save, finally got one past a NHL goalie early in the third period for the first of his career.
Where do you even begin with a game like this? The positive, of course, was the play of the aforementioned Shore line. Collectively, that line produced three goals, three assists while registering a +7. When playing together, they’ve easily been Florida’s most consistent and dangerous line. You can only hope that coach Kevin Dineen keeps that line together going forward.
On the other hand, the Panthers were dominated in the face off circle, which is normally a strength. After being over 50% on face offs won all season long, they could only manage 35%. Two of those lost defensive zone face offs led to quick goals off the draw, including Ovechkin’s power play shot to ignite the Caps‘ rally. It’s the third time in two games that the opposition (in this case, Washington) were able to win a face off and get shot through traffic and past the goaltender. And goaltending has been another problems as of late. While neither Jose Theodore nor Scott Clemmensen have firmly established themselves a true number one, the latter has struggled mightily in his brief time between the pipes this season. With Tuesday’s numbers in the bank, his goals-against average is nearing 6 per game (5.82 to be exact) and his save percentage is .837. This Panther team just isn’t going to win with bad goaltending. This is a game that should’ve been a regulation win but, defensive breakdowns and sub par goaltending gave them to a team that was on life support until the past two games. Not the way you want to start a four game home stand, to say the least. Next, you have the Montreal Canadiens coming to town Thursday, fresh off a win in Tampa and a win over the Cats already. Anything less than two points and, you have to feel like there is going to be some kind of change on this team before the season circles the drain.
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