It's difficult to find an exact reason why the Florida Panthers lost tonight, it wasn't for a lack of effort or rampant turnovers; the Panthers played a surprisingly even game against a very good Philadelphia Flyers squad for all but a few minutes. For the most part, Florida did everything right, that is excepting the 0-for-6 powerplay, including a 5-on-3 and double minor for the Flyers. To spare you the details, the Flyers won this game shorthanded. Heck, the game winning goal was a penalty shot stemming from a shorthanded breakaway.
If you're looking for positives to take away from the 3-2 loss, I suppose the brief comeback at the end of the game would be one. The Panthers haven't given up a game since the early part of the season, and while their point streak was snapped the team is still looking good against opponents of any caliber. The effort is certainly still there, even if they can't pull the trigger every night. Recap and more after the jump.
1st: Panthers started this game looking sharp in the 'happycat' blue 3rd jerseys (only 10 more games!) with the Flyers in their white roads. James van Reimsdyk would take a hooking call 2 minutes into the period giving Florida an early opportunity to show off their 4th ranked powerplay unit. With Ed Jovanovski and Jason Garrison on the point, the two sent 3 or 4 bombs towards the net but the strong Flyers penaly kill would prevent any scoring. Minutes later Jack Skille and Sean Bergenheim would team up on the forecheck, but Skille would get a little over-exuberant and take a slashing penalty in the offensive zone. Other than one scary centering attempt in front of a misplaced Jose Theodore, the penalty killing kept the Flyers chances to a minimum. Harry Zolnierczyk would be called for an illegal hit to the head penalty giving the Panthers the man advantage for a moment before Kris Versteeg negated the rest of the powerplay with a tripping call. The 4-on-4 would be back and forth and the remainder of the Versteeg penalty would be killed. Both teams were skating extremely well after a few days rest, but both goalies turned away everything they saw. The penalty calls didn't stop though, Zac Rinaldo would hammer Tomas Kopecky into the boards earning a charging call (the 5th minor penalty in 14 minutes of play). Garrison would send a few bombs towards Ilya Bryzgalov, but nothing would get through. With Rinaldo out of the box, Matt Bradley would get into a fight with him in front of the Philly bench. Call it a draw, but it's nice to see someone stick up for Kopecky after a dangerous hit. With a delayed penalty coming to the Cats, Wayne Simmonds would center a puck into traffic in front to Theodore and Danny Briere would chip the puck into the open side of the net (from van Reimsdyk and Simmonds). That would be the only scoring of the period though, Flyers returning to the locker room up 1-0.
2nd: The Panthers would start the period almost exclusively in the Flyers zone, but Shawn Matthias would hit Andreas Lilja on an icing call giving Philadelphia their first powerplay of the period. About midway though the period Mike Weaver would be caught up in the offensive zone creating a 3-on-1 rush for the Flyers, Braydon Coburn would put it home past Theodore (from Maxime Talbot and Jakub Voracek). Down 2-0, Scott Hartnell would bowl over Theodore (outside of the crease) allowing the Panthers a powerplay opportunity. Not much would be going on until Evgeni Dadonov, fresh outta San Antonio, would blow past a defender on a quick transition and roof one over the shoulder of Bryzgalov, assist from Jovanovski. Late into the period Bergenhiem would hook a Flyer in the offensive zone to give the Flyers another powerplay. Matt Read would ring one off the post, but other than that penalty killing was perfect. After a quick sequence of shots at the end of the period, the Panthers would end the period with the Flyers lead cut in half.
3rd: Two minutes into the third Jaromir Jagr would be called for a hooking call in the neutral zone to give Florida the man advantage, and with 40 seconds left on that penalty, Max Talbot would high-stick Brian Campbell for a 4 minute double minor. Matt Read would break into the Panthers zone as the Jagr penalty expired and was rewarded a penalty shot as Garrison pulled him down. Read would send the puck past Theodore's leg to put the Flyers up 3-1. The Flyers would kill off nearly six minutes of Panthers powerplays leaving the Cats without answers to Bryzgalov's stellar goaltending. As the halfway point of the period passed, Bergenheim would high stick a Flyer in the offensive zone for his second penalty of the night. The final ten minutes wouldn't result in much, and with 1:30 left in the period Kevin Dineen would pull Theodore. With about 8 seconds left, Tomas Fleischmann would slide the puck past a sprawling Bryzgalov from his knees to bring the score to 3-2 (assists to Kopecky and Brian Campbell), but it would be too little way too late; game over, Flyers win.
- Jack Skille took a big hit at center ice and wouldn't return for the rest of the game. Word on the street is lower body injury.
- Welcome back to the club Big Daddy. It must be something about playing the Flyers, Dadonov has played quite well in games against Philadelphia.
- After Read was given a penalty shot, Stephen Weiss would be thrown out with a game misconduct. Nothing happened on the ice, but he obviously mouthed off to the ref. Not a great place to leave your team, captain-in-training. Or maybe that's why you aren't the captain.
- Matthias was about the only good Panther in the 3rd period. Not going to win many games when he's the only one actually doing anything while his teammates stand around waiting for him to score.
- The penalty killing was definitely the Panthers highlight of the night, going 5 for 5 on the night against a very active Flyers powerplay.
- Can we play the rest of the season on the road? Florida has been tremendously inconsistent in Sunrise, something that needs to change ASAP.
- Flash continues to be Mr. Clutch for the Panthers, even though time ran out on the comeback. How many 3rd period goals does this guy have?
- Erik Gudbranson got the nod tonight and played pretty well. Glad the team has 7 capable defensemen at any given time.
Just a final word on penalties: the number of penalties in this game was frustrating at times but never favored either team. The fact that the Panthers (or Flyers, for that matter) couldn't score on any of their multiple chances is not the ref's fault. These games happen occasionally; it's up to the coaches to settle their team down when the referees are calling everything. That didn't happen tonight.