Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
In a game the Florida Panthers absolutely, positively had to have, on home ice against the worst team in the NHL, the Cats were outworked by the AHL-like Ottawa Senators and fell 3-2 at the BB&T Center.
Coming into the game ten points off the wild card pace, Florida was long shot to make the playoffs anyways, but this game cemented that into almost incontrovertible fact.
All the usual culprits were on display: horrid defending, bad penalties, lack of finishing ability, incomplete effort... you know the drill.
After hanging rookie Sam Montembeault out to dry in the early stages of the Carolina game, the Panthers started this one much better, testing Anders Nilsson six times before Ottawa even got a shot on goal.
Unfortunately, the Cats couldn’t score and the Senators did on their first bit of sustained pressure.
Vincent Trocheck and Jayce Hawryluk applied the Malachi Crunch to Thomas Chabot at center ice, but the defenseman was able to get the puck into the Florida zone to Magnus Paajarvi. Luongo made a stop on the Swede and robbed wide-open trailer Jean-Gabriel Pageau with his skate, but couldn’t make a third save on Zack Smith, who kicked the bouncing puck to his blade and chipped it into the net at the 5:10 mark.
After the Senators controlled the play for a few minutes, the Panthers got on the board at 9:02 when Keith Yandle took a drop pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and went cross ice to partner Mark Pysyk at the opposite point. Pysyk sent a low shot towards the cage and Aleksander Barkov tipped in under Nilsson for his 28th goal, matching his career-high.
The Panthers took the lead 6:34 later when Frank Vatrano forced Chabot into a bad clear. Troy Brouwer knocked the puck down and quickly went to Riley Sheahan, who went right back to Brouwer with a gorgeous feed and he converted glove-side to finish off the give-and-go.
Ottawa would score twice in a brutal second period for the Cats to regain the lead and then hold on the rest of the way to snap its seven-game losing streak.
Deadline pickup Brian Gibbons was left all alone in the slot and he bagged his first as Senator after taking a pass from Cody Ceci after the defenseman rounded the net after working a nice give-and go with Colin White at the 5:06 mark.
With Huberdeau off for hooking, Rudolfs Balcers got away from Aaron Ekblad to tip Dylan DeMelo shot/pass from just above the right circle between Luongo’s pads with 2:35 left in the frame.
The Panthers played better in the third period, but could not come up with the equalizer. Nilsson would stop nine shots and Huberdeau caught the post early in the period and Hoffman slammed a shot off the iron with nine seconds left in regulation. Game over.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)