Sens Shock Cats in Return Home

SUNRISE, Fla. – Home ice has been friendly for the Florida Panthers, but Wednesday night the BankAtlantic Center was anything but, as the Ottawa Senators embarrassed the Panthers 6-2. Florida set a season high with 44 shots in the game, but Ottawa needed just 31 in the rout. It was the ninth straight win in the all-time series for Ottawa, and their fifth in Sunrise. With the loss, Florida kept themselves from winning four-straight for the first time since 2008.

“It’s frustrating,” forward Shawn Matthias said. “They were competing harder than us, they won all those little battles. They were working harder than we were I think.”

The Panthers came out flying, outshooting Ottawa 14-9 in the opening frame. Despite the effort, Ottawa grabbed the lead early, foreshadowing what would end up a long nite for the Cats. Just 5:35 into the period, The Sens were able to get Scott Clemmensen out of position. Nick Foligno shot the puck from the left side, getting Clemmensen to come out of the crease. The puck went off a Panthers defenseman, caroming to Jim O’Brien, who went around the net for an easy wrap around. It was his first career goal, putting Ottawa up 1-0.

The Panthers battled back, and managed to get momentum back on their side, as they equalized the game 11:47 into the first period. Shawn Matthias got the puck at center and came in with a burst of speed to the left side. In the left circle, he managed to beat Craig Anderson top shelf on the right side, and knotted the game at 1 with his 10th goal of the season.

That was where the competition ended.

Florida looked like a different team in the second period, as Ottawa erupted for three goals, en route to four unanswered. 5:18 into the second period, Brian Lee ripped a hard shot from the left point. Ottawa had Kaspars Daugavins in front, and he tipped the puck past Clemmensen to make it 2-1. It was the first of three tip-ins by the Senators. Florida never regained the lead after that.

Just over two minutes later, Bobby Butler tipped in a shot from Milan Michalek, for his sixth goal of the season, giving Ottawa a two goal cushion at 3-1. The wind appeared out of the Panthers sails, and even a fight between Filip Kuba and Matt Bradley couldn’t get Florida back on the right side of the coin.

Minutes later, Chris Phillips took an interference penalty, which was followed up by a Sergei Gonchar hi-sticking call. Florida managed just two shots on goal during that time, and had one of their biggest breakdowns of the season 14:06 into the second stanza, as Daniel Alfredsson continued his resurgence with his 20th goal of the season. Daugavins intercepted the puck in his own end, and sent it down to Alfredsson, who came right down the center of the ice. Kris Versteeg was caught napping, as the 39-year-old skated right past him en route to a backhand shot that fooled Clemmensen. His goal made it 4-1, putting the game out of reach.

“Bang, bang, a couple of goals against,” coach Kevin Dineen said, summing up the miserable night. “Then the rain kept falling from there. Obviously a very disappointing game in front of our home fans.”

The rest of the game was inconsequential, as the runaway train kept going downhill. José Théodore entered the game in relief, playing the final 5:54 of the second period, and the entire third period. He allowed two goals, to Michalek, his 25th, and Kuba, his fifth. Florida was called for two bench minors during the period. 13:54 in, they received a too many men on the ice call, and at the 16:36 mark the bench was called for “abusive language.”

The lone bright spot for Florida came from Sean Bergenheim and Brian Campbell. On the powerplay, 4:25 into the period, Campbell ripped a shot from the left point, which was tipped in by Bergenheim for his 12th goal of the season. The score was 5-2 at that point. The goal was reviewed to see if the puck was touched with a high stick, but it was quickly upheld. Bergenheim’s 12 goals come in just 35 games, and the forward has five goals in the month of February.

Ottawa remains in seventh place with 68 points, and they will hold steady until Monday, when they travel to the New York Islanders. Florida holds onto a four point lead over the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Southeast Division. The two rivals will battle Friday night in Sunrise.

SIGN HIM UP

Tyson Strachan scored his first career goal Sunday afternoon in the Panthers victory over the New York Islanders. Two days later, he found himself with his first one-way contact, as the Panthers locked him up for the 2012-13 season.

“It’s obviously a huge thing,” Strachan said. “Five years of battling it out in the [ECHL] and [AHL]. I’ve always wanted to be here. It’s a show of faith from them and I’m  just excited about being a part of the organization for another season.

“It’s been an awesome week. The goal was enough itself. All the friends and family, getting the calls. I’m sure the phone will get some work after this news gets out.”

The 27 year old from Melfort, SK was a 5th round draft by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003. He played in 75 NHL games, mostly with the St. Louis Blues, before scoring his first goal. Strachan has three goals and nine assists with the San Antonio Rampage this season.

The Rampage also announced that Dov Grumet-Morris has been resigned by the club to an AHL contract. The 27-year-old Evanston, IL native has a 16-8-0 record in 25 games this season with a .923 save percentage. He has started the past 18 games for the Panthers’ AHL affiliate.

THREE STARS:

1. Craig Anderson (OTT) W, 42 SV

2. Kaspars Daugavins (OTT) G, A

3. Milan Michalek (OTT) G, A

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