Panthers Head Into Break on Losing Note

SUNRISE, Fla.- The Florida Panthers came up short yet again, falling to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night. With the loss, and a Washington Capitals win, the Panthers and Capitals are tied in points at the All Star Break, but with Washington winning the tiebreaker, Florida falls to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

“I would like to have had more of a push between Christmas and All-Star break,” Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen said. “We had nine games and we didn’t have a great record and have been a little bit flat. The only message I delivered to players is to get away and enjoy yourself whether you’re sitting at home and relaxing. We’re going to need a big push.”

Over the course of those nine games, Florida is just 2-3-4. The Panthers have left 11 points on the table in the extra session this season, which would put them in a tie with the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve thrown away so many points this year,” forward Kris Versteeg said. “We’ve got to find a way.”

It was a sloppy first period, with neither team seeming to take solid control of the game, despite Philadelphia outscoring the Panthers 13-9. Florida got the scoring started on their first power-play of the game. Just 2:49 into the opening period, Mikael Samuelsson had possession of the puck behind the right circle. His slapshot went to the left of Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovski, giving the Panthers their first and only lead at 1-0. For Samuelsson, who was struggling between trades and injuries, it was his third goal of the season.

What was looking positive for the Panthers quickly turned around on an unfortunate bounce. After Brayden Schenn took a slapshot from the right circle. Scott Clemmensen made the initial save, but the puck went up above him and bounced into the net. It was the third goal of his young career, tying the game at 1 goal apice 10:35 into the period.

“It’s just a pass from [Andrej Meszaros] and I walked off the wall,” Schenn said. “First powerplay we just want to get things on net and that’s what I did and we just got a lucky break there.”

The Flyers tacked on a second goal with just two minutes remaining in the period. Jakub Voracek brought the puck in at center. He passed it down to Tom Sestito, who backhanded it from the right circle. Voracek crashed the net and was able to tip the puck past Clemmensen to put Philadelphia up 2-1.

The Panthers got the goal back in the second stanza. 15:40 into the period, Versteeg came in on Bobrovski on a breakaway. He went to the left, attempting to go five-hole on the Flyers goalie. Instead, he passed the puck to Tomas Fleischmann, who was trailing. His turnaround backhand shot went into the open net to tie the game at 2.

The remainder of the game was back-and-forth, with neither team scoring in the third period and extra frame. It took until the second round of the shootout, when Claude Giroux got the puck past Clemmensen to clinch the 3-2 victory.

“In practice nobody can score on [Bobrovsky],” Giroux said. “Obviously we have a lot of confidence in him in the shootout. I get mad at him in practice because I can’t score on him. We have a little side bet in warmups. I do a breakaway each warmup and just can’t score on him. He’s patient, he’s quick. It’s fun to get that fist shootout win.”

The top nine spots in the Eastern Conference are separated by just 11 points. Both teams have a lot of work ahead of them as the stretch run begins. Florida returns to action Wednesday, February 1, when the Capitals come to town. The Winnipeg Jets will visit Philadelphia on January 31.

THREE STARS

1. Sergei Bobrovski (PHI) SO W, 23 SV

2. Claude Grioux (PHI) SO Clincher

3. Scott Clemmensen (FLA) SO L, 35 SV

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