The Panthers entered tonight's contest with the slimmest of hopes for catching up to Philadelphia and Boston to sneak into the playoffs, but after losing their second in a row, have dropped back one more spot to 13th in the East. The Panthers came into the game without David Booth, lost to his second concussion of the season Thursday in Montreal. Booth has not been ruled out for the season, but with the Panthers only three points from last in the Conference, he should be sitting for the duration. Tough guy Steve MacIntyre was called up from Rochester to take his place in the lineup.
Both teams started out slowly. There was no scoring in the first and very few quality scoring chances. The game finally started to liven up with a fight early in the second. After a dicey hit by Matt Carkner on Rostislav Olesz, Nick Tarnasky checked Carkner hard into the boards behind the net. Carkner didn't like the hit and shoved Tarnasky, who dropped his gloves as he picked himself up off the ice. Stephen Weiss scored the first goal a few minutes later at 6:37 on what the CBC announcers called "a gutsy" play. Weiss was double-teamed on his way to the net, and was knocked over Anton Volchenkov by Andy Sutton, but Weiss was able to get a shot off and past Brian Ellliot. Volchenkov, who got the worst of the hit, was injured on the play and did not return to the game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Matt Cullen and Peter Regin scored within two minutes of each other late in the second, giving the Senators the lead.
The Panthers started the third a man short as Dvorak was serving the end of a tripping penalty taken at the end of the second. Almost as soon as he was out of the box, Bryan McCabe, caught alone in the defensive zone with Mike Fisher, broke his stick trying to take the puck. As Fisher took the puck and tried to shoot, McCabe dove and blocked the puck with the broken stick and was immediately whistled. Daniel Alfredsson scored on the ensuing power play. Steven Reinprecht would score midway through the third on a 5-on-3 in the middle of a string of penalties committed by both teams, but the Panthers would not be able to put another one past Ellliot and the Senators would hold on to win the game.
Coach Pete DeBoer, with injuries to Booth and Gregory Campbell, rotated his forwards similar to the way he's been doing with the defense to keep Keaton Ellerby on the bench. The first two lines were familiar, with Weiss centering Nathan Horton and Cory Stillman and Reinprecht centering Michael Frolik and Byron Bitz. The remaining six forwards rotated through several different combinations designed to keep Steve MacIntyre on the bench. Ellerby once again took only eight shifts for 3:36. MacIntyre took six shifts for 3:05. While there's no real argument for giving MacIntyre ice time, it seems only a matter of time until fatigue causes an injury to one of the defensive corps, leaving the team with three guys who started in the minors this year. Given the team's position in the standings, it seems odd that Ellerby wouldn't get more ice time to gain experience, but perhaps DeBoer, who has derisively stated that he doesn't look at statistics, hasn't seen the odds against his team making the playoffs.