SUNRISE, Fla. – Shootouts have never been a strong point for the Florida Panthers. This season alone, they have just one goal over 14 shots in five games. That includes another O-fer tonight at the hands of one of the league’s best in the shootout, the New Jersey Devils, as they fell 3-2 at the BankAtlantic Center.
“It’s such a specialized way to end a game,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “We’ve lost a lot of points in the shootout, so it’s something we need to improve at.”
Although the Panthers dominated the overtime period, they could not beat future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, and were forced into the shootout. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias each had goals in the deciding session, while Zach Parise, one of the best in the league at the shootout, was stopped by Panthers goalie José Théodore. Brodeur, on the other hand, stoned forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg.
Versteeg, though, had a fantastic night.
15:10 into the first frame, Stephen Weiss took advantage of an offensive zone giveaway, taking the puck from the right slot, faking a shot at Brodeur. Instead, he passed to his right, where Versteeg was crashing, and had an open net to poke home the wrister to put the Panthers up 1-0.
In the second period, after Ed Jovanovski took a high-sticking penalty, the Devils won a center ice faceoff. Versteeg’s hard work paid off, as he stole the puck in the neutral zone, and led a shorthanded breakaway, scoring an easy goal at the 7:29 mark. The goals were his 14th and 15th of the season.
For the Panthers, the excitement ended there. Just under a minute later, at 8:25 into the second stanza, Bryce Salvador sropped the puck in front of the net, where Elias was cashing. He tipped the puck in past Théodore to put the Devils on the board. It was his 10th of the season.
In the third, Parise tied the game up with his 10th of the year, on a wrist shot at the 7:40 mark, sending the game into overtime, and eventually, the shootout.
With the shootout loss, the Panthers get a point and continue to lead the Southeast Division. They are now seven points ahead of the Washington Capitals.
“We’re back at home after a long road trip,” Dineen said. “We were looking to have a better effort. One point’s unacceptable.”
1) Kris Versteeg (FLA) 2 G
2) Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ) SOG (Clinching goal)
3) Martin Brodeur (NJ) W, 24 sv
- Tim Kennedy cleared waivers, and was returned to the San Antonio Rampage this afternoon.
- Erik Gudbranson was scratched from the game with leg tightness after Sunday’s game. He could be out a few games.
- Prospect Quinton Howden suffered concussion-like symptoms yesterday, after a hit while scrimmaging with team Canada for the upcoming World Juniors. He is expected to make a full recovery, but could miss some time during the upcoming tournament
- Tonight was “Marlins Night” at the arena, with outfielder Logan Morrison,wearing a number 20 Panthers jersey, dropping the opening puck. The Marlins provided t-shirts and jersey giveaways during the game.
(The Panthers Report will return tomorrow. I apologize for the delay.)