And just like that, the Florida Panthers broke my heart on Valentine Day…
Although the Florida Panthers still managed to record a point on Thursday night – their 5th time in 6 games – the team still managed to let fans down right when they started to believe that their home team could pull out a close victory, losing to the Canadiens 1-0 in overtime.
The Panthers started off the game with some interesting hockey that we are not used to seeing them play, tough physical hockey. Defenseman Mike Weaver, Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson all added a little extra pepper to their checks and combined for 14 hits on the night. However, the defensive physical effort received no compliment from the team’s offense as fans were treated to three periods of sleep inducing hockey for the most part.
The Panthers were out shot by the Canadiens 21-13 through the first two periods and any shots that did find their way to the net were quickly stifled by a red hot Carey Price in goal for Montreal. Other than a few exciting moments from the trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and Peter Mueller, the Panthers offense was kept in check the entire night.
One reason for this night of offensive ineptitude may be that the team was without first-line winger Kris Versteeg who was a late scratch due to an upper-body injury. However, even with Versteeg in the lineup I don’t think the outcome would have been much different, both due to Versteeg’s recent struggles and the recent efforts of top-line center Stephen Weiss, who has been a non-factor in almost every game this season. The team clearly needs to find a way to spark their offense, whether it is giving the “kid line” more minutes or shipping Weiss out for some new pieces, the fact is that it has to be done soon if the Panthers hope to make the playoffs this season.
Luckily for the Panthers, goaltender Jose Theodore did the best he could to keep the game close as the team struggled to give him any kind of lead. Theodore was outstanding throughout the entire game, stopping 31 of 32 shots and making several highlight reel saves along the way. Although he had been struggling recently, Theodore must have gotten tired of hearing the “we want Markstrom!” ramblings as he was able to play his best game of the season on Thursday.
Sadly, even when the Panthers offense did pick up – taking 13 shots on goal in the 3rd period – they were no match for Carey Price who looked absolutely unbeatable against the Cats’ anemic offense. Price stopped all 26 of the Panthers’ shot attempts on the night and was never in much real danger other than a Jonathan Huberdeau attempt that nearly snuck by him.
After three uneventful periods were in the books, the Panthers turned their hopes to overtime for the second time in just three nights. Considering the shootout abilities of Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers would have loved to have survived overtime and made their way to a shootout, but they would not be so lucky on this night. Just 2:10 into overtime, the Canadiens’ Rene Bourque was able to get a shot past Theodore, giving Montreal a 1-0 victory and earning the Panthers just one point in the standings.
For the past few games it has felt like the Panthers goaltending and offense just havn’t been able to show up on the same night. The team will need remedy their problems quickly as the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Sunrise on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers will have their hands full with a talented Lightning offense that is looking to end a losing streak of their own. The puck drops at 3 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida.
- Dmitry Kulikov had an impressive 7 hits during Thursday night’s game and was solid all around defensively. If he continues to play at this level and refrain from making sloppy mistakes in the defensive zone, then fans should soon stop calling for his head.
- Much to the chagrin of Panthers’ fans, Canadiens’ forward Ryan White was a healthy scratch from Thursday night’s game. Fans will remember that White sucker punched Tomas Fleischmann during the team’s first meeting this season after White believed that Fleischmann delivered a dirty hit. Sadly retaliation will have to wait once again for another day.
Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop