Phoenix slides past Florida 2-1 in penalty-ridden, injury filled contest

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 20: Mike Santorelli #13 of the Florida Panthers defends against Cal O'Reilly #26 of the Phoenix Coyotes as he skates with the puck on December 20, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Much like any other game, the Florida Panthers did virtually everything right Tuesday night; the defense and goaltending were stellar, the forwards skated and the team put nearly 30 shots on net. Unfortunately, it was penalty trouble that put the Panthers in a hole they could never completely escape. Florida's seven minor penalties (six in the first two periods) that would be the eventual difference in this game, with the Coyotes' two goals coming on the man advantage including the first on a 5-on-3. Some games that's just how the cookie crumbles, and with the comeback bid falling short to the clock Florida lost in a hard fought and costly game at home.

By all accounts, when you step back and realize tonight's loss was only Florida's 10th almost midway through the season, leaving two points on the table doesn't sting nearly as much. This wasn't a 6-1 blowout; Florida never gave up on this game. With an effort like we saw tonight, the Panthers won't lose too many in the future.



1st: Mike Smith and Jose Theodore would be minding the net for their respective teams and Ed Jovanovski would take on his former club for the first time. Martin Hanzal would take an early elbowing penalty with his hit on Kris Versteeg. The powerplay unit had some great chances, the best being a big save on a wide open Brian Campbell who sneaked down low for the shot. Matt Bradley would trip Hanzal just minutes later giving Phoenix their first powerplay of the night. The Coyotes wouldn't be credited for a shot on the man advantage, but Phoenix would enjoy another powerplay when Mike Santorelli tripped up Lauri Korpikoski. Again, the Florida penalty killers would keep the Coyotes on the outside. Dave Schlemko would interfere with Marco Sturm on a developing 2-on-1, giving the Panthers another opportunity on the powerplay, which would be killed uneventfully. That wouldn't be the last of the penalty killing, Shawn Matthias would earn the next ticket to the box with a interference call in front of the net, followed by a Versteeg slashing penalty on the forecheck. This time the Panthers would get burned, with Ray Whitney finding the net with 7 seconds remaining in the period.

2nd: Florida would start the period shorthanded while the remainder of Versteeg's penalty was killed off. Marco Sturm would elect to take the next weak call, an interference call in the offensive zone. See a pattern here? Shane Doan took an interference penalty to even the teams up with four players apiece. Erik Gudbranson would be called for the delay of game nonsense for shooting the puck out of play, this time Radim Vrbata would cash in with a one-timer to increase the Phoenix lead to two. After the goal the referees would let the teams play some 5-on-5, where Florida would have the upper hand for a bit with a great few shifts from the fourth line. The Panthers would finally get on the board when Campbell would take a shot that would ricochet off the post, then Smith and into the net with two minutes left in the period.

3rd: Phoenix would start the period off on the wrong foot when Michael Rozsival tripped up Stephen Weiss for a penalty. With the penalty killed off, Mike Smith would overextend a muscle(or something) and would be replaced by Jason LaBarbera with 16 minutes left in the period. Dmitry Kulikov would earn a hooking call as Doan drove towards the net, which would later be killed off. With a minute left in the period, Dineen would pull Theodore for the extra attacker. With a rising shot flying towards the goal, Hanzal would push the net off its moorings resulting in a penalty shot for Florida. Stephen Weiss would get the nod for the attempt, and with 24 seconds left and a chance to tie the game, the puck would die on the goal line after LaBarbera made the initial save. Those two inches would be as close as the Panthers would get to tying the game, Phoenix held off the final flurry to win the game 2-1.

Observations:

  • There is a huge problem when Mike Weaver has nearly twice as much shorthanded TOI than even strength TOI in the first period. When the referees are calling every little infraction, the team needs to adapt and the coach needs to settle his team down.
  • I'll go ahead and say this; I'm perfectly happy with the return on the David Booth trade. Instead of one guy using speed to create chances, we now have two guys doing that. Edit: Spoke too soon on that one, both would leave the game with upper body injuries.
  • Dave Schlemko would take a puck to the face point blank during the second period. They needed a shovel to scrape the blood from the ice. Ouch.
  • Tomas Fleischmann looked much better tonight, along with the rest of the top line.
  • Mikael Samuelsson would lay injured on the ice after Shane Doan flattened him into the boards, he hit the ice/dasher pretty hard with (presumably) his head. Sammy would need a bit of help getting back to the bench, but it could have been much worse.
  • Injuries were a huge problem for both teams tonight, Smith for Phoenix, Samuelsson, Sturm for Florida. Schlemko and Jovanovski also got roughed up but later returned.
  • Close call for Weiss with the penalty shot, but that was the story of the game for Florida.

Up Next: Redemption for an ugly loss earlier in the year? Yes Please. Cats face the slippery Senators Thursday at 7:30.

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