On October 11, the 1-1-0 Panthers would be taking the ice for the second game of a six game homestand against the 0-1-0 Montreal Canadiens. In their last game, they had defeated the visiting Calgary Flames, 4-1 on October 8. Florida carried a 4-1-2 all-time record against the Habs. Here's the recap as printed in the Eugene Register-Guard:
Scott Mellanby scored two goals for the second straight game as Florida beat visiting Montreal. The Panthers set a franchise record against Patrick Roy, a three-time Vezina Trophy winnger as best NHL goaltender, by scoring four goals in 3:13 against him in the second period.
Joining Mellanby with a multi-point game were Stu Barnes (one goal, one assist), Jody Hull (two assists), Gord Murphy (one goal, one assist), and Jason Woolley (one goal, one assist). Change-of-pace goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick earned the win by stopping 22-of-23 shots on goal. Brian Savage tallied the lone goal for Montreal. Florida would continue the homestand two nights later when they would host the Ottawa Senators.
The 1-1-0 Panthers would continue their season opening road trip in St. Louis against the Blues. Chris Wells, Scott Mellanby and Gord Murphy would tally goals for the Cats in what would ultimately be a losing effort, as Mark Fitzpatrick allowed five goals on 29 shots. Brett Hull scored twice for St. Louis, and Darren Turcotte, Al MacInnis and Pavol Demitra also tallied markers for the Blues. Grant Fuhr earned the victory between the pipes, stopping 17-of-20 Florida shots.The Panthers would open up Miami Arena in their next contest, the home opener against the New York Islanders on the 13th of October.
Florida had opened their season at home in Sunrise two nights prior with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. They would take the ice against the 0-1-1-0 Boston Bruins. Florida was 17-17-5 all-time against the Bruins. Here's the Observer-Reporter recap:
Olli Jokinen scored early in the third period to lift the Florida Panhers into a 1-1 tie with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Sergei Samsonov scored for the Bruins, who failed to win at least one of their first three games (0-2-1) for the first time since 1999-00 when Boston didn't get its first win until its 10th game.
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo made 32 saves. Andrew Raycroft, making his first start of the season for the Bruins, stopped 34 shots. Raycroft replaced Felix Potvin at the start of the third period in Friday's 5-1 loss at Tampa Bay.
The 1-0-1-0 Panthers would play their road opener on the 13th of October against the Carolina Hurricanes. Boston would continue their six game road trip against the Dallas Stars on October 15th.
The Panthers were 1-1-1 after a road shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 9. They returned to Sunrise to host the 0-2-1 Carolina Hurricanes. An excerpt from the NHL.COM recap:
Gary Roberts and Olli Jokinen each scored twice to help the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3 Wednesday night, keeping the defending Stanley Cup champions winless this season.
Florida, which beat Boston 8-3 in its opener, has scored a franchise-best 14 goals in its first two home games. The Panthers' previous high was 10 in 1995-96.
Florida has one goal in two road games.
Full recap here.
Jokinen also pitched in with two assists, while Stephen Weiss (one goal, two assists), and Todd Bertuzzi (two assists) also tabbed multi-point games for the Panthers. Alex Auld stopped 32-of-35 shots for the Panthers in victory. Jokinen spoke afterwards about the offensive outburst in the second period:
"In the second period we started shooting the puck and guys were going to the net," Jokinen said. "We got 18 shots in the second period. That was the turning point in the game."
The Panthers would stay at home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 13th. The Canes would visit the Atlanta Thrashers for their first win of the season, also on the 13th.
The Panthers, now 0-3-0, would return to Sunrise after a 2-1 heartbreaker against the Tampa Bay Lightning the prior night. They would be looking for their first win of the season against the visiting New Jersey Devils, a team they had lost to at home just five nights before by a score of 4-1. A partial recap, courtesy of NHL.COM:
"Vokoun is our guy," said captain Olli Jokinen, who scored one of the Florida goals. "He showed it tonight. He made some huge saves. He was sharp all night, and he's going to keep doing that."
Rostislav Olesz and Nathan Horton also scored for the Panthers, whose 0-3 start matched the worst in franchise history.
Cory Murphy and Jozef Stumpel each added two assists for the Panthers, who defeated opposing goaltender Martin Brodeur despite a strong 28-for-31 performance. Nathan Horton had a few words about Florida's elusive first win of the season afterward:
"It was only three games, but we wanted to win one to get it out of the way," Horton said. "It was a big game tonight, a big game for our confidence."
Devils @ Panthers 10/11/07 (via NHLVideo)
Florida would remain at home, hoping to string two wins together on October 13th against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils would visit the Atlanta Thrashers two nights later, defeating the future Winnipeg Jets, 6-5.
Florida, 0-1-0 after dropping the 2008-09 season opener on the road to the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-4 the night before, would play their home opener on October 11th. They would host the 1-0-0 Atlanta Thrashers, winners against the Washington Capitals, 7-4 on October 10th. Here's part of the NHL.COM recap:
Booth scored his second goal of the game with 1:06 left in overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night.
Drawing chants of "Booooth! Booooth!" at the BankAtlantic Center every time he touches the puck, he has three goals in two games.
Booth's winning goal also came with a little bit of luck. Nathan Horton attempted to pass in front of the net, but the puck bounced to goalie Kari Lehtonen and he couldn't handle it. When the puck got past Atlanta center Eric Perrin, Booth just poked it into an open net.
Richard Zednik and Keith Ballard each pitched in with two assists for the Panthers. Tomas Vokoun earned the win by stopping 21-of-23 Thrashers shots-on-goal. After the game, then-coach Pete DeBoer had kind words for Booth:
"Speed, enthusiasm, the energy he plays with every night, he s a great player," said first-year Florida coach Peter DeBoer, who earned his first NHL victory. "Guys like that are almost the heartbeat of your team. They get over the boards and they can change the momentum with their energy and their work ethic. Those guys are easy to coach."
Thrashers @ Panthers 10/11/08 (via NHLVideo)
The Panthers would take a five-day break before their next game, an October 16th home contest against the Minnesota Wild. The Thrashers would also play the Wild in their next contest, on October 14th.
Florida, 0-1-0 after a season opening road 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers the night before, would continue their season opening three game Western Conference road trip against the 0-0-1 Vancouver Canucks, fresh off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. An excerpt from the NHL.COM recap:
Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the game from close range with 5:08 left, and Roberto Luongo made 41 saves as Vancouver beat Florida 2-1 on Monday night and bounced back from a shootout loss to Los Angeles in their first game on Saturday.
He put the Canucks ahead again on a late scramble. Tomas Vokoun made a headfirst dive save off Henrik at one side of the net, but the puck squirted out the other side and this time it was Daniel lunging forward to knock it over the goal line.
Rostislav Olesz provided the only offense for the Panthers, and Tomas Vokoun stopped 33-of-35 shots in the losing effort. After the game, Panthers coach Peter DeBoer talked a little about Florida's tough luck to start the season:
"We've strung together six good periods in two tough buildings and don't have anything to show for it, so that's a little disappointing, said coach Peter DeBoer. "I like the way we're playing, this is a tough game for us back to back with Vancouver waiting and fresh and we competed hard."
Florida would complete the three game swing against the Calgary Flames on October 14, while the Canucks hit the road to visit the Anaheim Ducks on the 13th.
Florida was 1-0-0 after a season opening shutout of the New York Islanders on October 8. They would face the 2-0-1 Pittsburgh Penguins on the road. It was to be the only nationally televised game in which Florida would appear over the course of the regular season, while Pittsburgh would be on coast-to-coast TV roughly 75 more times. Here's Ryan's LBC recap:
This was a tale of two teams: one that has had a few years to further refine itself after a huge Stanley Cup victory several seasons ago, dealing with the loss of two superstars due to injury yet still playing an incredibly successful game night in and night out; the other an amalgam of new faces and styles, still finding its way and forming that always-valuable chemistry among the roster.
After a solid opening night win, the Panthers rolled into Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team that would be playing its fourth game in six nights, but fatigue didn't matter as the Pens dropped Florida 4-2. The Panthers, who played a very disciplined and tight game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, looked quite different as they struggled to maintain possession and turned the puck over on a very regular basis. It's clear there's still plenty to work on for the Cats, but 80 games remain, with lots of time to fix the messy play folks saw on Tuesday night.
The Pens came in tired, but certainly didn't look like it. The period started out with a lot of energy from both squads with a lot of fast skating, end-to-end action and tenacious play on the puck. The Panthers got the first power play but were unable to score as Pittsburgh's penalty kill, tops in the NHL last season, continued its success. After a fair amount of pressure by the Penguins, the Cats committed a penalty with Ryan Carter heading to the box, but were able to kill it off. The Panthers then rebounded a bit with some puck possession time, but had a lot of trouble getting plays off in the offensive zone. Against tougher competition like Pittsburgh, it's clear that the Panthers still need time to get used to each other and start to develop more offensive chemistry. There's still a lot of "throw it on net, hope for the best," and the passing in the zone was less effective than the last game against the New York Islanders. Shortly after, the Pens struck first, with Pascal Dupuis hammering away at Jose Theodore without much help. Rookie Erik Gudbranson and defensive partner Ed Jovanovski were caught out of position and against a well-coached and very deep squad like Pittsburgh, you don't want to be out of position. After allowing the first goal, the Cats were back on their heels a bit, but nearly scored as Stephen Weiss had a backhand on an empty net but shanked it and didn't get it elevated, allowing Fleury to make a nice save. Tomas Fleischmann took a late penalty for hooking, giving the Pens a second powerplay chance, but the Panthers were able to clear it a few times and burn the penalty off. Both teams finished with 12 shots apiece for the frame, but the Panthers got schooled in the faceoff circle, 13-5.
Both teams came out at about the same intensity level, but the Panthers got called on a relatively weak boarding call against Jason Garrison early in the period. The Pens had some good puck possession but were unable to convert. The Cats PK still looks as solid as last year, and we all know how important the special teams will be for this team's success this season. After that, the Panthers didn't register much in the way of shots, as the Pens were able to use their system to keep the Panthers from anything but perimeter shots that were routine saves for Fleury. At around 8:30 left in the period, the Penguins struck again, with Matt Cooke dumping a shot past Theodore off a great feed from Joe Vitale. Shortly after a commercial break, Kevin Dineen was interviewed about the Panthers offensive pressure, saying, "We're trying to take the cute out of it, and put pucks at the net." No more than 15 seconds later did the Panthers do just that, with Marcel Goc getting his first of the year after a great rush up ice by Jack Skille. Shortly after, the Panthers got back on the man advantage with Cooke taking an interference call, and promptly allowed the Penguins to score a terrible shorthanded goal. A bad shift by Gudbranson and Jovanovski was followed up by a very bad turnover by Fleischmann, and after pinballing around a bit the puck ended up in the Panther net. Dineen and assistant coach Craig Ramsay will have a field day with that film. The Panthers got one last powerplay in the period, but were unable to convert and went into the third with a two goal deficit.
The Cats started the third period with some bad turnovers, which led to a bad tripping penalty by Dmitry Kulikov taking down Jordan Staal. The Panthers were able to kill off the penalty effectively and followed up with a quick tally by Fleischmann off a great point shot by Gudbranson and a nifty backhand feed by Weiss. This was all thanks to a faceoff win in the defensive zone by Weiss after the Penguins waited too long to line up. The play went back and forth again for most of the period until Staal muscled his way in to create a scoring chance, and caught the Panthers forwards flat-footed, as the rebound lay in the crease and no one picked up a streaking James Neal who hammered home the puck. The Cats then immediately got a powerplay but were unable to convert, and Pittsburgh's excellent neutral zone play shut the Panthers down the rest of the way. Theodore was pulled late in the game during the final Panthers powerplay with just under two minutes to go, but it didn't matter as the Penguins held on until the final horn.
- The Panthers checking line of Shawn Matthias, Matt Bradley and Ryan Carter looked good throughout the game. It's clear that Dineen will be comfortable rolling four lines all season if that line continues it's play.
- Through two games, Sean Bergenheim looks tentative and a bit out of place. If his mediocre play continues, you may see Evgeni Dadonov in his place.
- The powerplay was ineffective tonight, and although it's only the second game, the coaching staff has to find a way to make sure the chances the Panthers get make a difference on the score sheet. Had the Cats been able to convert on even one man advantage, this would have been a very different game.
- The Panthers clearly had to rise their play to their opponent if they wanted a shot to win this game, as the Penguins are a very talented and deep team (even without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik). There were very long stretches of this game where the Cats simply couldn't compete with the long-developing chemistry of the Penguins. That said, it's only the second game, so it's a bit early to be concerned.
- I have never watched a came where the Panthers turned the puck over as much as they did in this game. For a team that is interested in playing a puck possession game, they will need to drastically reduce those to make that game work for them.
- If I ever hit the lottery and want to get in shape, I'm calling the strength and conditioning coach for the Penguins. For playing four games in six nights, they sure looked peppy.
- Gudbranson had some real growing pains in this game. He looked nervous and was a step behind the Penguins forwards early on. After his shaky powerplay shift in the second period, Dineen cut back his ice time. He did pick it up in the third period though. It's good to remember that it's his second pro game against a very good team, and he's still finding his game in the NHL.
- The Cats offense struggled to get quality scoring chances, taking lots of perimeter shots on Fleury throughout. It seems the breakouts and forecheck may need more time to develop, as well as timing. There were a lot of missed passes... a LOT.
- Can someone explain to me how Mike Milbury is still involved with hockey? He was a terrible GM, he is god-awful on TV, and he turns an otherwise great Versus broadcast into something that makes you cringe. Hockey fans tune him out about as fast as people change the channel during the Super Bowl halftime show. That is, unless you like wardrobe malfunctions.
- Kulikov had a rough game. It seemed like for every good play he made, he turned the puck over shortly thereafter. Hopefully he can turn it around; let's not forget Keaton Ellerby is waiting in the wings.
- Brian Englomb, where's the mane? Father time has robbed us of one of the great heads of hair left in hockey. A moment of silence, please.
- We saw this a lot last year, and we're already seeing it again: players aren't picking up a man during the transition game. Campbell, Kulikov, Kris Versteeg and a couple others were caught gliding back or flat footed as the very quick and very dangerous Pittsburgh transition game repeatedly created quality chances. Can't have that.
Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Panthers, with assists earned by Jack Skille, Kris Versteeg, Mike Weaver, and Stephen Weiss. Jose Theodore allowed four goals on 29 shots in the losing effort. Brian Campbell talked to the media post-game:
"I thought we had some chances throughout the game and had some jump," Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. "I thought we had something going on, but it's never easy giving up a shorthanded goal. It's another mistake that we make, and it ends up costing us."
Panthers @ Penguins 10/11/11 (via NHLVideo)
Florida would play their next game on October 15th in their home opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the Penguins would remain in their house for the next two games, against the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres.
That's that. In eight games on October 11th, Florida has compiled a not bad 4-3-1 record, a .563 point percentage. Make sure to keep checking Litter Box Cats for all of your offseason Florida Panthers news.