Strong Effort Isn't Enough as Rangers Stave Off Panthers 5-2

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Upshall and Bjugstad score the Panthers only goals in the third period, Rangers go 2 for 3 on the power play.

As a whole, the Florida Panthers weren't all that bad tonight despite losing to the New York Rangers 5-2. For much of the game Florida kept the puck in the Rangers zone while limiting the oppositions chances during even strength. Even so the goals for both teams were scored primarily on mistakes by the other team, and Florida's mistakes simply outnumbered the Rangers. Whether it was penalty trouble or bad passes, Florida allowed the Rangers to go up 3-0 before finally scoring one of their own. Henrik Lundqvist was good, but he wasn't unbeatable.

Horachek has helped the Panthers make strides in the right direction, but they're still prone to games where they can't score and aren't flawless enough to hang in a low scoring game. Offense is still a problem, but even the slightest defensive mistakes can sink an otherwise good effort by their goaltender. Special teams need to drastically improve if the Panthers want to start climbing the standings in leaps instead of inches. When the Panthers are able to come away from these kinds of games with a full two points, we'll know things have really changed.

Observations:

  • The Panthers must have zero confidence in Scott Clemmensen, because Tim Thomas has made ten-straight starts. If Florida is really so desperate that they'll put all of their eggs in Timmy's 39-year-old basket, just wait until he suffers another injury. Time to give him a break with 50-something games left in the season.
  • Scott Gomez is back in the lineup thanks to injuries, and he looked just fine on the fourth line much as he did earlier in the season. My question is why wasn't he brought into the lineup earlier with Matthias struggling to do anything. Florida has been playing well lately, but outside of a dirty goal against Vancouver, Matty has had countless chances to make a difference for his team and failed. It's hard not to think someone couldn't bring offense to the team if he had as many chances as Matty has, whether that player be Gomez, Drew Shore or Vincent Trocheck.
  • In the first period the two teams each had a power play, Florida got stood up as they tried to make a play and never set things up, while the Rangers made multiple risky passes during their power play and ended up connecting for a nice deflection goal. Florida's penalty killers had three good chances to get a stick in the passing lanes and force the Rangers to the outside, but instead let the Rangers pass through the middle and score. The special teams have been very forgettable this season.
  • Huberdeau had a great partial breakaway that Henrik Lundqvist stuffed, and the rebound opportunity went right to Bjugstad who had his stick tied up on an empty net tap in chance. Just one of those nights.
  • Supposedly, Florida is not interested in trading Kulikov. For all of the scouting that happens during Panthers games to try and pick off talented players, I've come to the conclusion that in reality none of the other GMs want to trade for him. Trade him to the KHL for cash?
  • It's nice that Horachek can roll all four lines, but the grinders are getting too much playing time in a game where goals aren't going in.
  • Brad Richards would put the Rangers up 2-0 on a well-screened shot that beat Thomas five-hole. Goldie and Billy kept mentioning how the Panthers had dominated the second period, but they never actually tied the game with the momentum they built. In fairness, Florida did have a good period, but every time the Rangers would make a mistake the Panthers player on the rush gave the defender too much time to break up the play, which always seemed to happen.
  • For being offensively stagnant, Florida's forwards had great positioning tonight. Just gotta work a little harder to beat an elite goalie and mobile defense.
  • New York would go up 3-0 on a weak, behind the back clearing attempt by Gilbert who put the puck right on Rick Nash's stick. But hey, those 7 assists are looming large in games like these.
  • Florida would get one back off a perfect turnover as the Rangers defenseman threw a bad pass on to the stick of Boyes who fed Upshall for a top shelf backhander. Bjugstad would have a great shift a few minutes later which ended in power move to the net and a backhanded goal of his own.
  • Blueshirt Banter has all the New York Rangers summation you'll ever need, so go there.

Next Up: Florida faces Pittsburgh on Saturday, and with Vokoun still ailing another Zatkoff sighting may occur between the pipes for Pittsburgh. This would be great for the Panthers, since it's much easier to win games when you're not playing against a real goalie as they discovered earlier in the year with the greenhorn goaltender. Pens at Cats, 7pm.

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