Missed chances are costing the Florida Panthers the division, plain and simple. Tonight's 4-1 smackdown via the Pittsburgh Penguins was obviously the manifestation of this lethal shortcoming with chances to take the lead, even the game or just narrow the game to one dissolving due to a myriad of reasons. What ever happened to the speed of this club or the fierce drive we saw earlier in the season? No longer are the Panthers winning the little battles or preventing costly mistakes, but rather they're trying to convert pretty goals to no avail. Pittsburgh had a sense of urgency coming into this game, Florida didn't. And unsurprisingly they lost.1st: Scott Clemmensen and Marc-Andre Fleury would be the starting netminders for game 43 in Sunrise. The Panthers would get a few nice chances early on, while the Penguins would send lots of shots towards Clemmensen. Krystofer Barch and Aaron Asham would drop the gloves midway through the period in a heavyweight rumble, few good punches would be thrown and it ended as Barch wrestled Asham to the ice. Pittsburgh would be awarded a tripping penalty with Pascal Dupuis in the box; but the Pens wouldn't give Florida many chances to cash in. Stephen Weiss would trip James Neal with 8 minutes remaining in the period to give Pittsburgh a powerplay opportunity, they'd hit the post three times but wouldn't find the net. Kris Versteeg would take a slashing penalty immediately after Weiss left the box, giving Pittsburgh another powerplay which would be killed. Clemmensen had to make 18 saves in the first period, but the period would end scoreless.
2nd: The Panthers wouldn't get off to a much better start as play resumed, Clemmensen would misplay the puck two minutes in and Steve Sullivan would have an empty net to shoot at, Matt Cooke getting the assist. Minutes later Weiss would take his second penalty of the night with a tripping call(very close to being a dangerous kneeing penalty), but it would be killed off. The Cats would have multiple scoring chances late in the period culminating in Versteeg missing an empty net on a sharp angle shot. With thirty seconds remaining Brian Campbell would get caught up high in the offensive zone resulting in a 2-on-1 for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin would take a slapshot point blank that Clemmensen would save, but Malkin would bank the rebound off Clemmensen to extend the lead to 2-0 as the period ended.
3rd: Things would go from bad to worse as Tyler Kennedy would cash in 36 seconds in, assists going to Brooks Orpik and Dupuis. Michal Repik would later take an interference penalty, but it would be killed off before Pittsburgh could score again. Finally Florida would get on the board when Repik deflected a slapshot from the stick of Garrison, the other assist going to Campbell. You could tell Florida was trying to make a comeback, but the Pens had mailed the game in a long time ago. Neal would add insult to injury as he walked in and sunk a wrist shot over Clemmensen from above the circles. Yeah, that was a lame one. Panthers blow it 4-1.
- Props to Barch for sparring with Asham. Most guys who fight Asham end up in a bloody pulp.
- Matt Cooke only has 14 penalty minutes this year. Thats almost Lady Byng-ish. Good for him for cleaning up his act.
- I never really expected this, but John Madden is a pretty quick skater for being old and kinda washed-up. Madden sure has looked good in his three games with Florida.
- There are always a few players on every team I root for whether I like the team or not. Richard Park and Steve Sullivan are Pittsburgh's representatives in my like-able pool of players, just because they've been in this league a loooooong time.
- Erik Gudbranson and Eric Tangradi would go after the first goal, the fight literally consisting of Guds pushing over Tangradi. Five minutes for nothing.
- Mike Santos made a minor trade today for San Antonio, sending Angelo Esposito to the Stars for some guy named Ondrej Roman. Consider this the aftershock blip on your trading Richter scale after last night's Bourque-Cammalleri shakeup.
- I suppose the bright spot of the night for the Panthers is Repik continuing to make the most of his time with the big club, which is something he never did before.
- Maybe it's time for Dineen to take a page out of DeBoer's book and shuffle the lines. The top line is suddenly pathetic.
- Versteeg didn't play much in the third period. If an injury isn't announced tomorrow, I'm convinced he was benched by Dineen. And I don't blame him.
- How bad was this game? Even though Clemmensen let in 4 goals, he still made 37 saves. Florida was outshot the entire game and somehow managed to put 26 shots on the Flower. Really? Sounds like the shotkeeper was being generous.
- Panthers played incredibly slow considering all these long breaks they've had. Time for consecutive bag skates.
Up Next: The third meeting of the year between the Panthers and the Bruins. Who's turn is it to get shut out? Empires fall at 7:30.