Panthers offense going down in Flames

The Olympic break can’t come soon enough for the Florida Panthers. They
lost 2-1 against the Calgary Flames at home on Friday night, with the return of
Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester being just a little piece of what has become
a giant snowball of problems for the Panthers in the past week.

After the game, Panthers head coach Pete DeBoer was very upset with his team’s
offensive efforts.

“We have got lines of guys that haven’t scored in 15 games. The only way
to fix that is through free agency in the summer,” said DeBoer.

The fans booed Bouwmeester, who had an assist, throughout the entire game
whenever he had possession of the puck, but by the end of the game those boos
could have easily have been for the most anemic offensive team in the NHL at
the moment.

They are anemic because they only had 13 shots on goal in the whole game,
six of them by defensemen, compared to Calgary’s 40. Keep in mind, the Panthers
were, in DeBoer’s words, “manhandled” by Calgary after spending the past six
days at home and having the last three days to rest after being shut out in a
lackluster shutout loss to the Anaheim Ducks last Monday.

They are anemic because they shot on goal only two times in the third
period, and one of them shouldn’t have even counted because it was truly weak
and harmless. The Panthers were down a goal and the urgency that a team that is
fighting to get into the playoffs and treasuring every point it gets is
supposed to have just wasn’t there.

“You would think that some guys would have wanted to get their noses
dirty and score [after not doing so] for the past 14, 15, or 16 games, but we
weren’t interested in that tonight,” said DeBoer, who added that he wants his
forwards to get “grittier”.

Booth’s return will only help so much if the rest of the team isn’t going
to take advantage of his playmaking abilities. Booth had an assist against the
Flames, but goals continue to elude him so far. He was unavailable for comment
after the game.

The key stretch of a contest that was tight throughout happened late in
the second period during a Calgary power play opportunity and the game tied at
one.

Sixteen minutes into the period, the Panthers missed a golden opportunity when
they counter-attacked a distracted Flames team that was all-out on offense. Florida
forward Stephen Weiss drew goaltender Mikka Kiprussof’s attention, but a
streaking Radek Dvorak couldn’t capitalize on the open net opportunity as he whiffed
the shot.

One minute later, the Flames wouldn’t be quite as forgiving when defenseman
Mark Giordano put his team ahead for good with eight seconds left on the
penalty kill. That goal might as well have been a knockout punch, because the
Panthers were truly shell-shocked by it, not attempting a single shot on goal in
the first seven and a half minutes of the third period.

With the loss, the Panthers remain just two points behind the Tampa Bay
Lightning
, who currently hold the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference
with 25 games to go, but unless something changes soon for the Panthers, those
two points might as well be 30.

“You get frustrated, yeah, but we have to work our tails off and find a
way to win games,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

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