Remember last season, when the Panthers led the NHL in "Bettman points," earning a whopping 18 from overtime and shootout losses? The Cats have already played 14 games in this shortened season and have four OT/shootout losses, adding yet another in what can only be described as a routine 4-on-4 overtime loss. The Panthers can't seem to figure out the overtime frame and once again gave up a pivotal point against a division rival. Win those four games, and the Panthers sit with 16 points and one point behind division leader Carolina.
Instead, the overtime losses continue, this one being likely more painful than the loss against Washington. With around 10 seconds left, Teddy Purcell would pot the game tying goal and send it to overtime, and then the Panthers would barely show up again in overtime, playing sloppy 4-on-4 hockey and allowing Benoit Pouliot to score the game winner. Too much puck watching, not enough textbook hockey.
What's more concerning, however, is the ugly specter of fragility that this team seemed to possess on a nightly basis during the reign of Peter DeBoer (and several coaches before him.) Similar to how the Washington game on February 12 played out, the Panthers had a two goal lead in the third period and managed to not only give up the equalizers but fail to walk away with two points despite an overtime period to do so. This team has to find the killer instinct that they seemingly have never had, and at this point there doesn't seem to any kind of answer to where that may be.
Time on this very short season is flying by and with it the games and points. The Panthers are leaving way too many of those points behind.
- Goal differential is now at -18. Ugly.
- There were so many mental mistakes still happening on both ends of the ice for the Panthers. We're way too far into this season to attribute this to anything but lack of discipline. Whatever system is in place, the players need to do a better job adhering to it, or the coaching staff needs to do a better job ripping players in half for not doing so.
- Florida would open the scoring off of a fantastic tip from Shawn Matthias, but Tampa would retaliate with a sweet setup of their own shortly after. Florida really needed to expect that kind of response from the Lightning, but just seemed fully unprepared and promptly got controlled for several minutes straight, culminating in another pretty weak goal only a few minutes later. The Cats really need to work on learning to protect leads better; this is becoming an every-game concern.
- Matthias is looking good on a line with Marcel Goc and Jack Skille. He's playing much better north-south hockey and picked up his first assist of the season on a nice goal from Skille, who actually top-shelved a solid wrister instead of shooting wide as he is known to do, regularly. Grats to Skille as well.
- Drew Shore has had SO many odd-man rushes and still has yet to convert cleanly. Every time he gets the opportunity I tense up hoping he'll just roof it and get that breakaway monkey off his back.
- Jose Theodore again looked strong at times and not so great at others. The second goal scored by Tampa was something that we've seen far too often this season: a weak goal at a backbreaking moment. Several of the other Tampa goals, however, were due to the Panthers and their seemingly-renowned lack of toughness. Had several of the Tampa players around the net been less-than-gracefully dumped onto the seat of their pants, Theo would've likely had one or two of those covered before they became goals against.
- The Panthers really miss the booming point shot of Jason Garrison. The power play just isn't the same without it.
- The Kiddie line would strike again in the third off a beautiful feed from Shore to Jonathan Huberdeau. No more to say about these kids; they need more ice time.
- Stephen Weiss played a better game. Not great, but better. The Panthers really need him to play his solid two-way game for the team to go anywhere this season.
- Steven Stamkos probably has the best one-time shot in the NHL, and the Panthers really didn't do much to take away his chance to shoot that on the power play. He made them pay.