Defenseless Panthers Close Road Trip With Another Rout

When going over their packing list of what to take on their six day, four-game road trip, the Florida Panthers must have forgot to include goaltending and defense. The red light behind Panthers goalies were given quite the workout as they were scored upon early and often throughout the trip that saw the Panthers return with a 1-3 record and in a far bigger hole than when they left.

Granted, competition wise, it was a tough road trip (three of the four teams are currently in a playoff spot), but save for a comeback against a struggling, injury-depleted Detroit Red Wings team, the Panthers were outmatched every night.

And there’s no need to dig into Cori or Fenwick as the reasons for this terrible road trip, as it’s all right there on the surface:

- The Panthers were outscored 20-10 in the four games, giving up at least four goals in every game.

- Tim Thomas‘ save percentage in his three games played: .867, .854 and .866. Scott Clemmensen’s start in Toronto produced a .813 save percentage.

Everyone is quick to blame the Panthers blueline for any shortcomings, but the goaltenders deserve a great deal of of blame for this stretch. Yes, the defense can put them in bad spots but, at some point, they just have to make the save and bail them out. That’s been happening less and less recently. Take Saturday night in Columbus: With the score 2-1 Blue Jackets late in the second, a weak Nick Foligno shot squeaks through Thomas and dribbles over the line for a 3-1 lead and effectively ending the game. It was a save that HAD to be made and it wasn’t.

That’s not to say that Thomas/Clemmensen haven’t had their moments, because they have. Thomas‘ performance in the shootout (see last Sunday’s win in Detroit) alone has helped pad win total, but if this team wants to cling to its already extremely slim playoff hopes, it needs better in the net than what it got these past four games. And when your best goalie as a .911 save percentage, it doesn’t look good.

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and Mike Lewis. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Missed Opportunities Haunt Panthers Loss To Hurricanes

The Florida Panthers power play will score a goal at some point. I mean, the law of averages says one of those shots with the man advantage will beat a goalie and end up in the net, right? I’m asking because as the Cats carry an 0-for-a jillion (ok, it’s really only 0-for-32) streak of futility around their necks, you get the feeling it might never happen.

If you wanted to, you could certainly pin Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on another futile evening from the power play unit. Not only did it shoot blanks on five attempts (including four straight minutes in the second period) but a turnover on the final chance of the night gave Alex Semin a short-handed breakaway goal that proved to be the game winner. Bad enough when it the unit isn’t scoring but to allow a shorty is just insult to injury.

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Late Letdown Sends Panthers Home With Loss

3.8 seconds

That’s all that stood between a possible two points for the Florida Panthers and single point from an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. And that’s how long it took Travis Zajac to direct a faceoff win to Jaromir Jagr and feed Marek Zidlicky for a game-winning goal with just one second left in overtime for a 2-1 win.

Despite the low score, this was a surprisingly exciting game that saw both teams register 30+ shots on each other’s net. Florida’s lack of finishing was evident once again as they dominated the period but couldn’t beat Cory Schneider.

The Devils took the lead against the run of play, taking advantage of a tired Panther team after an icing call. Ryane Clowe tip a loose puck to Michael Ryder, who buried a chance from the slot.

Nick Bjugstad answered in the second as he tipped a Tomas Fleischmann feed past Schneider.

Tim Thomas and Schneider would make the 1-1 score stand until Zidlicky’s game winner as both would make several spectacular saves over the final 20 minutes of regulation.

Credit Devils coach Pete DeBoer for calling a timeout and drawing up a successful play (though his players executed it to perfection). Not much more Peter Horachek could’ve done on his end. Zajac cleanly beat Marcel Goc, Florida’s normally reliable face-off man, on the dot and the rest was history.

The loss caps a disappointing road trip that saw the Panthers score just three goals in three games while finishing 1-1-1. Florida continues to struggle with winning OT (non-shootout) games as they’ve only won twice in the past three seasons in the extra session.

With recent news that Dale Tallon has the green light to spend/acquire salary, this team should go looking for a goal-scoring winger immediately. But, of course, that’s easier said than done as team’s aren’t normally looking to send a goal scorer out the door, especially during the season. Maybe that’s a move better left for the off-season but it must be addressed by then, at the latest. Until then, games like we’ve seen this week are probably going to be the norm.

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Panthers Win Despite Blowing Third Period Lead

It’s a cliche, to be sure, but the Florida Panthers received a lesson on ‘playing a full 60 minutes’ Saturday night. With six minutes left in the third period and a comfortable two-goal lead, the Nashville Predators came storming back to tie the game at four with less than a minute left in regulation. Thankfully, Tomas Kopecky’s tally in the sixth round of the shootout rescued the second point as the Panthers closed out the five-game homestand with a 5-4 win.

The win gives a positive finish for a the run at home that saw the Cats drop three of five (including two in which they were tied or ahead in the third period.) It also gave them a a win against a Predators team that has historically been a thorn in their paw.

The Preds grabbed an early lead when Craig Smith (who has given Florida trouble going back to rookie camp games from the recent past) scored just six minutes in. But, Florida would rally for two tip-in goals before the first intermission. First, Brad Boyes followed up an Aleksander Barkov shot to tie the game then, Kopecky followed six minutes later for a rare lead over Nashville.

The second was a standoff until late when Mike Fisher tied things up with just under five minutes to play. The Panthers would fire back :57 later as Sean Bergenheim scored from in close for a 3-2 lead.

When Marcel Goc converted a Seth Jones turnover to make it 4-2 just under two minutes into the third, it looked like the Cats would cruise to a comfortable victory. But with five minutes left, Nashville began surging (16 shots in the period). Jones would atone for his earlier mistake and scored with just over five minutes to play to cut it to 4-3. And, with just :48 left, Paul Gaustad tapped in a loose puck to complete the comeback.

With Jonathan Huberdeau and David Legwand the only shooters to score (both the second round), the shootout droned on scoreless until Kopecky’s shot settled the game and gave Florida the second point they should’ve collected in regulation.

The Panthers will now play their next three on the road as they head to Montreal, Buffalo and New Jersey over the next week. If you’re keeping tabs on the wild card chase, six teams and nine points stand between Florida and the playoffs as of Saturday night’s game. Imagine how much more interesting things would be without that disastrous start to the season.

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and Mike Lewis. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Panthers Can’t Muster Second Comeback Against Wings

All season long, the Florida Panthers have made it a habit of overcoming two-goal deficits early in games. Saturday night, overcoming that feat twice in a game proved too much as the Detroit Red Wings escaped Sunrise with a 4-3 win, pushing the Cats losing streak to three.
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Panthers Win Streak Grounded In Winnipeg

So much for sweeping across Canada. The Florida Panthers own Festival Express came to end Friday night as the Winnipeg Jets dropped the Cats 5-2, halting the win streak at 5 and giving the Cats a 3-1 record against teams from the Great White North during the run.

Unlike the past three games against divisional Canadian foes, it was the Panthers who were playing the second half of a back-to-back and it showed early as the Jets seized control of the first from the opening faceoff. Despite the pressure, it was the Cats who got on the board first as Shawn Matthias created his a turnover then fired the puck past Ondrej Pavelec for an unlikely 1-0 lead.

The Jets got a little help from Tom Gilbert to tied the game as Jacob Trouba’s shot was deflected the Panther defenseman past Jacob Markstrom on a rare 3-on-3. Four minutes later, the Jets would take full advantage of two foolish Florida penalties as Tobias Enstrom and Blake Wheeler scored :33 apart to break the game wide open.

Despite that, there was still reason for optimism as a 3-1 lead with Pavelec in net isn’t exactly in the bag. But, the 4-1 lead that Evander Kane gave the Jets just 1:03 into second proved to be. Nick Bjugstad’s goal to make it 4-2 just four minutes later made things a little more interesting before former Cat Michael Frolik restored a three goal lead late in the second.

And with that, one of the more enjoyable stretch of games in recent memory comes to end with a chance to start a new strek on Monday against Tampa. Even with Friday’s defeat, the Panthers have won seven out of nine but, more importantly, the contribution of the younger players has stepped up. Bill Lindsay mentioned it last night’s telecast that the young guys are starting to take ownership of this team. The ‘blueprint’ that was being used as a marketing point a few seasons ago is finally coming to fruition. Certainly a high scoring winger would speed things along but the young guys are starting to deliver what Dale Tallon promised. And they’ve brought hope to Panther fans who didn’t have much just a month ago.

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and Mike Lewis. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Panthers Victory In Toronto Pushes Win Streak To Four

While the temperatures in South Florida remain high for December, the Florida Panthers have been skating through a winter wonderland in the Great White North so far this week. The Cats won their second game in Canada this week, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Tuesday night. The Panthers have now one four straight and six out of seven, the lone loss in that stretch coming against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

For the second straight game, the Panthers caught a team on the second half of a back-to-back and once again, they took advantage. Aleksander Barkov’s pass sent Tomas Fleischmann in alone on Leafs goalie James Reimber, who converted with a snipe from the top of the left face off circle for a 1-0 lead just 3:29 into the game.

All was quiet on the scoreboard until early in the second period. Sean Bergenheim collected the rebound of a Barkov shot and backhanded it past Reimer to make it 2-0 and bring out the boo birds.

The boos got even louder late in the period as Brad Boyes picked Dion Phaneuf’s pocket and raced in alone on Reimer. Although the initial shot was save, his rebound attempt found the net to give the Cats a 3-0 lead.

Mason Raymond’s deflection of a Peter Holland shot to make it 3-1 to open the third made things a little bit more interesting than Panther fans were hoping but Scott Clemmensen made it stick. Clemmensen stopped 28 of 29 (including a final two minute flurry from Toronto with their net empty) for his third win in a row. During that span, he’s only given up four goals, with only one coming 5 on 5.

Clemmensen’s performance is just one of many that have been key during this successful stretch. Just about everyone has raised their level of play, knowing that is pretty much the only way they’ll be successful. Brain-dead turnovers have been cut way down. Defensive assignments aren’t being bungled. Pinching defensemen are being covered by the forwards, eliminating odd-man rushes (for the most part, anyway). It’s certainly unrealistic to expect the Panthers to keep playing at this pace but, at least, it shows that they’re capable of staying with anyone in the league. Right now, they’re getting the bounces their way after an opening 20+ games where it seemed everything went against them. If they can keep playing like this, they’ll find that the bounces will go their way more than not.

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and Mike Lewis. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Panthers, Clemmensen Survive Ten Round Shootout For Win Over Capitals

Prior to this season, shootouts have long been the Achilles heel of the Florida Panthers. Even in the playoff season of 2011-12, the Cats fell eleven out of 17 times in the skills competition. Thus far in the 2013-12, the Panthers have won four out of eight, including Friday night’s 3-2, 10 round win over the league’s statistically best shootout team, the Washington Capitals.
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Panthers Make The Most Of Effort Against Short-Handed Wings

Too many times this season, the Florida Panthers have had nights where they dominated possession and peppered opposing goalies for a disproportionate number of shots, only to find themselves on the wrong on end of the result. Saturday night in Detroit, the Cats were able to flip that script as they took advantage of a Red Wings team (playing without Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk) in a 2-1 win. Florida enjoyed a huge disparity in shots on goal (37-23), especially over the final two periods (28-14).
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Panthers Blueline Contributes Big In Thrashing Of Jets

If you wanted to point to one reason the Florida Panthers have struggled to score goals this season, you could easily not the lack of production from its defensemen, outside of Brian Campbell. Thursday night in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Panthers received seven points from the blueline and not one of them from #51.

Erik Gudbranson and Dylan Olsen each contributed a goal and an assist (Olsen’s goal was his NHL first) to pace ten Panthers who contributed points. Gudbranson’s first period tally late in the first answered an Andrew Ladd goal from earlier to tie things at 1 at the end of the period.

Olsen gave Florida a lead they would never relinquish three minutes into the second. A thunderous, clean hit from Gudbranson on Tobias Enstrom behind the Panther net started an odd man rush the other way while several Jets stayed behind to take exception on the hit. Olsen took a Scottie Upshall pass and fired it past Ondrej Pavelec from the slot for a 2-1 lead.

Gudbranson said of his D partner getting his first goal:

“He’s played really hard for us since he’s been here and he’s played really well. It’s great to get that monkey off your back, get your first one and definitely move forward the right way.”

Olsen wouldn’t be the only one getting the monkey off his back. Tomas Fleischmann scored for the first time in 15 games as he put back a Mike Weaver shot to push the Florida advantage to 3-1.

Nick Bjugstad’s wraparound early in the third put the lead at 4-1 and that goal would prove big as former Panther captain Olli Jokinen cut the lead to 4-2 midway through the final frame. Jimmy Hayes backhanded home the back breaker with less than three minutes remaining, giving the Cats the 5-2 win.

With the Panthers struggling to score goals every night, it’s certainly encouraging to see the defense chip in, especially since it came from the younger guys like Gudbranson, Olsen and Dmitry Kulikov, who chipped in an assist in his return from his healthy scratch on Tuesday. Whether or not this is a one game blip or a new trend remains to be seen but the Guddy/Olsen pairing has been more than solid in the five games they’ve played together. A second pairing that can help drive the offense would certainly give this team a big boost. We’ll get a chance to see them next this Saturday in Detroit and the Panthers face off against the Red Wings and that guy that used to wear number 9 here.

Thanks for reading!

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and Mike Lewis. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

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