Recap: Florida Panthers fall to Ottawa Senators 3-2 in Peter Horachek coaching debut

Tim Thomas returned, but the Panthers lost their first game under new coach Peter Horachek. While the team looked good at times, too many lapses and an inept power play kept them from taking the lead.

Unlike many teams who experience a mid-season coaching change, the Panthers did not win their first game under new coach Peter Horachek. On the whole, the team seemed to bring more effort, but disorganization and a weak power play combined to keep them from a win. A quick two goals by the Senators early in the game seemed to doom the Panthers from the outset, and the Cats couldn't capitalize on a series of late penalties by the Sens.

Horachek and new assistants Brian Skrudland and John Madden have a lot of work to do with this group if the Panthers think they're going to contend for a playoff spot this season, as owner Vinnie Viola promised in his open letter to fans earlier this week. The Panthers don't have more than two days in a row off between games until Christmas week, and have several back-to-back games, including this weekend.

Some observations:

  • The Panthers started off looking confused and out of sorts. Changing coaches mid-week will have that effect, but it's not a great way to start a game, especially when your starting goaltender has been out injured for a few weeks.
  • The Panthers defense is still brutally bad at times, and bad plays by the defense led to the first two goals. No one picked up the guy behind the net on the first goal. On the second, Erik Gudbranson whiffed trying to clean up a rebound and was in perfect position to have the goal go in off him.
  • Good effort by Tomas Kopecky and Nick Bjugstad on the first Panthers goal. Kopecky dove across the ice to keep the Senators from clearing the puck out of the offensive zone, then Bjugstad picked it up in the corner and powered past two Senators to slip the puck into the net behind Robin Lehner, who never had a chance to stop it.
  • The Panthers settled down halfway through the first period and started to look organized, but still let the Senators get some quality looks.
  • The third Ottawa goal was bad luck for the Panthers. With Jonathan Huberdeau in the box serving the second of Scottie Upshall's two roughing penalties, Gudbranson backhanded the puck over the glass. Thomas lost his stick during the 5-on-3, virtually assuring the Senators would get a goal. The Panthers started that kill off well, with Marcel Goc and Kopecky coming close to scoring a shorthanded goal.
  • There was quite a few quick whistles after Lehner touched the puck. On two or three occasions when the Panthers had him scrambling, shorthanded and on the power play, the referees blew the whistle when Lehner wasn't even close to having control of it.
  • Once again, the Panthers' pathetic power play cost them. The Senators gave them a decent number of chances to get a power play goal in the second half, and they couldn't take advantage.
  • Tim Thomas was a little rusty at first, but overall played a very good game. It will be interesting to see if they start him in New York tomorrow.

Video highlights:

More from the Ottawa end via Silver Seven right here. The Cats travel to Manhattan for a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Rangers at MSG Sunday; LBC's GameThread goes live at 6:30.