Success on home ice remains elusive for the Florida Panthers. After delivering one of their best performances of the season Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, the Cats were beaten 3-1 by the Detroit Red Wings last night at the BB&T Center.
Florida got off to yet another slow start, managing only two shots on goal in the first period, but captured the lead when Scottie Upshall came out of the sin bin and scored with 26 seconds remaining in the frame. The goal was Upshall's tenth and was assisted by Tomas Kopecky and Mike Weaver.
After being stymied by Tim Thomas in the first, the Red Wings continued to outplay the Cats and hit paydirt twice in the second period to take the lead. The shot count after two would end up 23-8 in favor of the visitors.
Daniel Alfredsson scored at the 5:30 mark, with Brian Campbell in the box for tripping, to tie the game. The veteran forward collected a loose puck in front and rapped it by Thomas, who finished with 30 stops, for his thirteenth goal of the season.
Gustav Nyquist lit the lamp later in the frame, ripping a wrister past Thomas after carrying the puck end-to-end, to give the Wings a lead they would not relinquish. The red-hot Nyquist has now potted nine goals in his last nine outings.
The Panthers finally woke up in the third and fired sixteen shots at Jimmy Howard, including a Sean Bergenheim breakaway chance. Unfortunately, the Detroit goaltender was up to the task and stopped them all, keeping the Cats from at least picking up a loser point.
Brian Lashoff iced the game, scoring into an empty-net with twenty ticks left on the clock.
The loss last night pretty much ended the pipe dream that was the Panthers' chance at a playoff spot. The Cats now trail the Red Wings by 13 points with only 25 games left on the schedule. According to the "Button Method", Florida would need to pick up 43 out of 50 points to surpass the total Detroit is on pace to finish with by the end of the season. Simply not happening. The effort last night in the first two periods, against the opponent you are directly trying chase down, was completely unacceptable. If it wasn't for another strong game from Thomas, the score could have been more one-sided. The Panthers are in Carolina tonight to face the Hurricanes in their last game before the Olympic break.
Odds & Ends
- Despite getting dominated for much of the first two periods, the Panthers almost regained the lead right before the Gustav Nyquist goal. Instead, Jimmy Howard made two big stops on Jesse Winchester and Shawn Matthias. Nyquist collected the rebound of the Matthias' shot and went down the ice and scored. If the Panthers find the back of the net there, maybe Thomas shuts the door the rest of the way and the outcome is different.
- Tomas Kopecky's first period helper was his 100th career NHL assist. Kopy has a modest two-game point streak going as he prepares to head to Sochi to represent Slovakia.
- Pavel Datsyuk returned after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Cats did a good job on the skilled pivot, limiting him to just a single shot on goal. Datsyuk finished -1 on the night.
- The Cats had a hard time containing the energetic Wings, leading to seven penalties. The PK did a pretty good job in killing off six of those chances. Once again, nothing on the power play.
- With the playoffs seemingly out of reach, I want to see Dylan Olsen back in the lineup. This kid is part of the future and needs to be playing, not sitting in the press box.
- The loss dropped the Cats back below the .500 level at the BB&T Center. I know it's likely going to take a couple of playoff appearances to re-energize what's left of the fanbase, but a good first step would be winning at home more often. Seeing this team sleepwalk through games in person got old a long time ago.
- If you gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City, check out Winging It In Motown for more on last night's doings.