If anyone expected the Panthers to walk all over the Ottawa Senators tonight for an easy win, let this be a lesson to you. I can't help but wonder if Kevin Dineen's club let the 3 day break between games dampen the seriousness of this road trip and underestimate an Ottawa team not expected to do much this year. The Sens reminded me of the Florida Panthers of last year, not very dangerous on paper but sneaky good when the puck hits the ice; a team that will burn you in the dying seconds. And that's exactly what happened, the Panthers' defense wasn't on top of their game and the Senators took advantage twice in the final three minutes.
Just when the Panthers seem to be kicking it into gear they get smacked with a heart-breaker. Elite teams recover from these games in time for their next, meaning with the Sabres in the headlights Kevin Dineen needs to find the problem and eliminate it. This team isn't firing on all cylinders, but it needs to immediately if they want to kiss .500 goodbye for good. More after the jump.
1st: Just like the last few games before, the opponent would come out with the energy. The Senators would box the Cats in their defensive zone for the first few minutes of the period but never had many good chances other than a Peter Condra sorta-breakaway. Though for the first time in what seemed like a looooong time, it would be the Panthers who'd take the early lead. Jason Garrison would fire a booming slapshot from the top of the circles to beat Anderson stick-side; no tip, no screen, just a hard shot past the goaltender(assists to Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg). Moments after the goal, the Cats would be on a man-advantage on a Kaspars Daugavins high sticking call. The Senators PK unit would limit the Cats chances while Florida could never really set up anything for more than a handful of seconds. Things would settle down through the halfway point of the period until Erik Gudbranson was called for a cross-check behind the goal. Markstrom would have to scramble for the puck once, and Marcel Goc and Versteeg would have a nice chance in the offensive zone. The final minutes of the first would be uneventful, with Garrison's tally holding up for a 1-0 lead.
2nd: The period would start out 4-on-4 as Tomas Kopecky and Zach Smith took roughing minors at the end of first period, neither team generating many chances with the extra room on the ice. Just after the two exited the boxes, Filip Kuba would take a hooking call and the Panthers were given their second powerplay of the night. Again, the Ottawa penalty killers would sabotage any cycling the Panthers would set up keeping the pressure off Craig Anderson. After Gudbranson slashed Nick Foligno on a breakaway, Daniel Alfredsson(the extra attacked) would send a qiuck wrist shot over the left shoulder of Markstrom to tie the game and negate the penalty. The game wouldn't be tied long though, a quick rush into the Senator's zone and a few pretty passes would result in a snipe by Tomas Fleischmann off the goalpost to regain the lead(from Stephen Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov). After the pretty goal, the Panthers would catch the Sens back on their heels but wouldn't be able to increase the lead. Stephane Da Costa would trip up Tim Kennedy right in front of the referee and give the Panthers yet another powerplay. If this sounds familiar, let me assure you, it sure does. Another uneventful powerplay, ending in a delayed penalty when Kulikov tripped a Senator leading to a 3-on-1. Fresh out of the box, Da Costa would finish off the rush by nailing one past Markstrom at 14:14. After the faceoff Jason Spezza would cross-check Mike Weaver from behind -into the boards- for the Sens 3rd penalty of the period. At this point, you can probably guess the outcome...that's right, no goal, no cycling...nothing. Matt Bradley took a penalty in the offensive zone, the penalty kill kept the Sens chances at a minimum, the period ended. Good time for a locker room break, because the Panthers needed it.
3rd: After killing the final seconds of the penalty that carried over from the second, the Panthers didn't look much different from the periods before. Ottawa was still getting plenty of rushes while Florida tried to catch their collective breath, not a great sign just two games into a relatively short northeast road trip. Despite this, the pace of the game seemed to speed up quite nicely, probably due to the fact that neither team could set anything up until ten minutes of the period had been burned. Around the 11 minute mark, the Sens turned on the pressure collapsing the Panthers in their own zone, but a few saves from Marky's long white pads kept the game tied at 2. As both teams slid into defensive mode with about 5 minutes left in the period, chances were few and far between, but Colin Greening was able to capitalize on a sloppy play and ring one off the post and in with only two and a half left in the game. Now the Cats were desperate. With Markstrom on the bench and the extra attacker on, Weiss would send a pass to the far side to a wide open Versteeg and boom, another one of those pretty 'Steeger goals. Hey overtime right? Cats get a point right? Nope, Foglino again, 2.5 seconds left in the game, puts it home after the Panthers fail to clear it. Game over, Sens win 4-3.
- How many times did we hear the clang of the post tonight? If Ottawa's shooters would have been any more accurate the score would have been 7-3.
- 38 shots from Ottawa tonight. If the Panthers want to go anywhere this April other than the driving range they need to keep the shot count below 30, Swedish goalies with long legs can only save so many.
- Don't look now, but Kris Versteeg is holding his own in the top 20 point scorers in the NHL. We'll need that to continue throughout the season, heck it seems he's already #1 in clutch goals.
- Jason Garrison scored 5 goals last season. 9 games in and he already has three.
- Don't get too caught up over the two Ottawa goals with the delayed attacker, both were legitimate scoring chances. Instead, get upset about the final two Senator goals resulting from the defense's inability to clear the zone.
- I'd really like to see Mike Santorelli get his 2nd line center position back, there's absolutely no good in pairing a 20 goal scorer with two 5 goal scorers. Put him with Scottie Upshall and Kopecky where he might have some chances.
- Is it time we see Keaton Ellerby? Or break up Ed Jovanovski -Erik Gudbranson pairing for something more defensively sound? Tough call to make, but something has to change on the blueline.
- Lets hope Mikael Samuelsson can inject some more life into the offense. Yes 3 goals a night is nothing to turn your nose at, but while we're giving up 40 shots a night the offense needs to compensate.
- Why can't we beat Craig Anderson?
- Earth to Ramsay, the PP was 0-for-5 tonight. Time to return to the basics?