After being embarrassed by Washington only nights before, the Florida Panthers once again disappointed fans as they let a 5-3 lead slip through their fingers late in the 3rd period – eventually falling once again to the Capitals, 6-5 in overtime.
Before I get into all of the reason why the Panthers lost this game, let me first take a moment to point out some impressive performances from Tuesday’s game that deserve recognition. First of all, the Panthers once again showed tonight that their youngest line may actually be their best scoring unit at this point in the season. The Panthers’ forward line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Peter Mueller and Drew Shore combined for 6 points (3G 3A) on the evening and set the tempo for team throughout the game offensively.
The feel-good moment of the game came when rookie Drew Shore was finally able to score his first career NHL goal. After coming up short on numerous quality opportunities in recent games, the hockey Gods finally saw it fit for Shore to get a much deserved goal off of an assist from Panthers’ forward Jack Skille. However, even with his spectacular evening, Shore was not the most impressive rookie for the Panthers on Tuesday – that honor goes to Jonathan Huberdeau who was able to record the first multi-goal game of his young NHL career. If the Panthers had been able to hold on to their 5-3 lead, the biggest story of the game would have definitely been the play of the Panthers’ talented rookies.
Also helping in Panthers’ offensive efforts were 4th liners Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille. On most nights, Skille and Matthias are usually just high energy players who dish out hits and play solid defense in their own zone. However, on this night Matthias and Skille’s hustle and effort resulted in 2 points (1G 1A) as they were able capitalize on their opportunities in the offensive zone. Considering how much effort Skille and Matthias put out every game, it was nice to see them rewarded on the score sheet on Tuesday night.
Sadly, even with their 5 goal explosion and outstanding play from their rookies, the Florida Panthers still fell short – turning 2 points in the standings into just 1 with only minutes remaining in the 3rd period. The Panthers appeared to check out mentally on defense and allowed the Capitals to score 2 goals within the last 6 minutes of regulation. Although all of the blame cannot be placed on goaltender Scott Clemmensen, allowing 6 goals on only 29 shots is hardly quality play in net.
In overtime, the Panthers’ two most inconsistent players this season gave way to a Troy Brouwer game winning breakaway goal for the Capitals. Although he has been improving and become one of the Panthers’ more reliable defenders since returning to the lineup, Dmitry Kulikov is still consistently falling victim to bad turnovers – including a arrant pass that led to Brouwer’s breakaway. However, forward Stephen Weiss’ poor effort in challenging Brouwer also made the breakaway goal that much easier. Weiss remains an enigma for the Panthers this season – while he still shows signs of brilliance, he also is still caught coasting through shifts and showing a strong lack of effort on the defensive end. As trade rumors continue to swirl around him, Weiss will need to pick up his play before fans start to kick him out the door rather than wish him well.
The Panthers’ next chance for a win will be on Thursday at home against the Montreal Canadiens. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on FOX SPORTS Florida.
- After another poor outing from Scott Clemmensen and the inconsistent play of Jose Theodore, perhaps it is time for Panthers’ management to start thinking about the possibility of calling up top-goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom.
- Team Captain Ed Jovanovski is set to miss even more time as he continues to nurse a lower-body injury. Luckily for the Panthers, defenseman Tyson Strachan has been filling in nicely for the wounded “Jovo Cop” and should continue to play well until Jovanovski’s return.
- I am a big fan of Tomas Kopecky, but the fact that he played 3:18 on the power play tonight and Drew Shore only played 1:05 baffles me. Considering Shore’s recent play and Kopecky’s limited offensive abilities, it should be a no-brainer that Shore deserves more time on the power play unit – especially considering his chemistry with Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau.
- The Panthers were only able to win 24 of 68 (35%) faceoffs on Tuesday night without one of their better faceoff men, Jerred Smithson. It is unclear why Smithson was a healthy scratch, but in the future it would make more sense to scratch George Parros rather than Smithson. Swap a player that averages around 5 minutes of ice time for someone who excels in the faceoff circle.
- Peter Mueller continues to play exceptionally well alongside rookies Drew Shore and Jonathan Huberdeau. Mueller recorded two asissts on Tuesday night and raised his season point total to seven. At only 24 years old, Mueller could definitely be a part of the Panthers long term rebuilding plans if the team chooses to re-sign him after this season. Considering how well he has played and his relationship with Shore and Huberdeau, I strongly hope that General Manager Dale Tallon has re-signing Mueller as one of his top priorities.