Coming back from a 4-0 deficit is tough for any team in the NHL, especially when you're playing the Washington Capitals, who now lead the Eastern Conference with 105 points and are getting hot at the right time. Just ask the Panthers, who posted two goals in the third period but were unable to cap a true comeback effort and extended their losing streak to nine straight games despite outshooting the Capitals 33-25. Goals by David Booth (on the power play no less!) and Mike Santorelli brought the Panthers close but not close enough. Kudos to Sergei Samsonov on both goals, as his ability to create space for his teammates contributed to both Panther tallies.
Power plays were abound for both teams in this game, with each team getting four opportunities with the man advantage. Yet despite some very solid puck possession time in the Washington zone on the PP, Florida could not finish more than one of those chances. Not to beat the dead horse that has been rotting in the field since the first month of the season, but this team really needs finishers who can suck up power play minutes with some real results. We have seen flashes of scoring potential from guys like Evgeni Dadonov and Booth, but it's clear consistency is still an issue for many of these players. There's only so much "system" you can instill in a team; at some point it becomes the responsibility of the players to convert. Still, this team traded much of its special teams performers away at the deadline (Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman) and is missing its key cog in Stephen Weiss, so let's cut them a little slack.
Notables: Aside from his goal, Santorelli looked excellent on the offensive side of the puck, and finished with four shots. Shawn Matthias returned and chipped in 10:56, but still doesn't look like his old self. Booth finished with a team-worst -3. Alex Ovechkin is on fire as of late and earned himself a three-point evening with a goal, two assists and 5 SOG. And Scott Clemmensen looked a bit shaky throughout this game.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter though. With every loss the Cats get closer and closer to locking up the third worst record in the NHL, thereby improving their draft lottery chances and ensuring an impact player in the 2011 NHL Draft. As fans you always hate to see your team lose, but as dedicated fans you are willing to suffer for the greater good. In Tallon we trust? We'll sure find out.
Don't forget to chime in with our cohorts at Japers' Rink to discuss this tilt. Next up: the Bolts of Tampa Bay @ 7:30 PM this Friday; Live Game Thread at 7.