I’m no mathematician but I’d be willing to be that the odds of scoring five goals in a National Hockey League and losing game are pretty slim. That said, I’d imagine the chances of it happening twice within five days are about the same as Wayne Gretzky showing up on my doorstep, asking me to teach him how to be awesome at hockey (Hey Great One, I have spare time if you ever need me). Yet, there were the Florida Panthers late Saturday afternoon, looking up at a scoreboard that read Tampa Bay 6 – Florida 5 in overtime.
Goals from Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky early in the third period broke open a tie game to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead, the same lead they had Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. And just like on Tuesday, the opposition comeback followed. Steven Stamkos connected from his usual spot in the left face off circle with a power play goal to make it a one goal game just seven minutes into the frame. Florida managed to stave off the Lightning until 10.4 seconds left in regulation, where a lonely Teddy Purcell buried an open shot from the high slot to tie the game.
The overtime session followed a familiar script for the Panthers this season. At 1:19, Tom Pyatt’s shot attempt ricocheted off the end boards and bounced right to the stick of Benoit Pouliot, camped out a foot from Jose Theodore’s net, who easily tapped it in for the game winner.
For the third consecutive game, the Panthers pulled only a point when both points were readily available to take. And, even more importantly, they gave away extra points within the division to Tampa and Washington. The best chance for Florida to make the playoffs is to win the Southeast Division and, you’re not going to help your chances by giving up points to division foes, especially on your home ice. And when you get production from players you don’t normally get it from like Jack Skille, Jerred Smithson and Shawn Matthias, each of whom scored a goal, you have to close the opposition out.
At this point, what else can you do? There has been an increasing call for the Panthers to call up Jacob Markstrom from the American Hockey League but, is he really going to make much of a difference if the team defense is going to be so bad? Looking at Saturday as an example, guys were allowed to camp out down low and take multiple whacks at the puck after the initial save was made (see Stamkos‘ first goal). If you look at the game-tying goal, the forwards crashed down too hard, leaving Purcell all the open ice he needed to score. It’s easy to blame the goalie for every one let in, and don’t get me wrong, Theodore needs to be better but, the team defense (forwards definitely included) has been lacking pretty much the whole season. If it doesn’t get better, or at least to the point of where it was last season, Pekka Rinne could be in net and the difference is going to be negligible. Bottom line, if you let traffic hang around your net, you’re going to pay for it. That point has been proven on far too many occasions these 14 games.
The Cats have one more chance to get two points Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two points makes things a little better but, in light of what we know these first three games, it’s still somewhat of a disappointment. Getting a point helps but, at some point, it becomes a tired refrain. If they’re to be a playoff team, it’s a refrain they can’t afford to sing too much more.
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