Cats Prevail Over Isles
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
SUNRISE - If the Panthers are as coach Peter DeBoer suggested last week, a work in progress, then maybe you could make the argument they’re similar to a Jackson Pollock painting. Some nights it’s going to take a while for things to come into focus…even for the players.
Despite having the previous night off and playing an Islanders team that played the night before in Carolina, the Panthers walked onto the ice Saturday at BankAtlantic Center and found themselves down 2-0 and outshot 10-2 in the opening five minutes.
Pretty it was not. But then it all changed. Down-and-out, back-and-forth, up-and-down…
First, the Panthers allow two quick goals. Then they rally with four goals of their own. Then they lose a two goal lead in the third period. But give them credit; they walked into the night late Saturday with a 5-4 victory and their second consecutive shootout triumph.
After getting four unanswered goals from Cory Stillman
, Stephen Weiss
, Rostislav Olesz
and Michael Frolik
, the Panthers got goals in the shootout from Steve Reinprecht and Nathan Horton and outstanding goaltending again from Tomas Vokoun
to win for the fifth time in their last seven games.
The Panthers, a dreadful 3-8 last year in shootouts, are now 4-1 this season.
DeBoer was a bit torn after the game. One side: “We picked up four points against a hot team in the Islanders and in Boston in a tough rink,” he said. The other side: “You fix one problem and another problem crops up,” he added. “We’re (winning) shootouts now unlike last year. Last year we did a good job holding leads and now we can’t hold leads.”
“It’s like sticking your finger in a dike,” DeBoer added. “You fill one and another pops up. But that’s an NHL season and that’s what you deal with and you fix the problem areas as quick as you can.”
The Panthers have had problems playing consistently, finding their rhythm, and last night was no exception. They were lethargic in Boston Thursday night in the second period, and they played the same way Saturday in the first period.
Tim Jackman, celebrating his 28th birthday, gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game when he took a pass in the high slot from Nate Thompson behind the Panther goal and shot it past Vokoun. Just 4:13 later, the Islanders made it 2-0 on a goal from Trent Hunter.
“(Vokoun’s) been on a little bit of a hot streak lately so it was nice to get a couple,” Jackman said. And it could have been worse if Vokoun didn’t make big saves in the two minutes after Hunter’s goal on Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau.
The reason for the slow start? “For whatever reason, a lot of starts we’ve had we’ve kind of sat back and not taken control off the hop,” said Dominic Moore. “We know what to do. A lot of times we have to play on our toes instead of our heels and play an aggressive game.”
DeBoer gave the Panthers credit for coming out in the second period a better team. “No one had to say anything,” he said. “The guys fixed it between periods. Not much had to be said.”
Vokoun, who stopped 40 shots coming off a shutout in Boston, said; “They played last night and we got outworked in our own building. That shouldn’t happen.”
The next 40 minutes were entirely different for the Panthers.
First, Stillman locked-and-loaded a wrist shot from above the left faceoff circle that sailed over Roloson’s glove to make it a one goal lead. Just 31 seconds later, Weiss got a pass in his own end, picked up speed in the neutral zone, and skated into the Islanders zone. After turning the corner on Freddy Meyer, Weiss, as he was about to fall from a trip, flipped the puck high over Roloson’s glove to tie the game at two. Then with just 26.1 seconds remaining in the second period, Kamil Kreps circled the Islanders net, came out in the high slot, and fired on goal. Roloson made the save, but Olesz was able to pull the loose puck out from Roloson and shove it into the net for a 3-2 Panthers lead.
Just 3:03 into the third period, Frolik scored on the power play on a beautiful passing player with Weiss and Bryan McCabe
. It broke an 0-for-10 power play slump. The Panthers seemed well on their way. But the rejuvenated Islanders didn’t quit. Rookie John Tavares scored his third goal in two nights on the power play and, with 6:46 remaining in regulation, Okposo scored on a blast from the point on another power play to tie the game and ultimately send it into a shootout.
For the second consecutive game, Vokoun was big. After Frans Nielson and Reinprecht exchanged goals, Vokoun stopped Tavares and Okposo. At the other end, Stillman clanged one off the post before Horton snapped a wrist shot past Roloson. Vokoun then stopped Sean Bergenheim to end the game.
“It was a weird game,” Horton said. “It’s not the way we wanted to play; not the start we wanted. We can’t let that happen.”
But, hey, the work in the progress has now won five of its last seven games. Maybe the picture is getting clearer.
Captain McCabe led the Panthers with 27:25 of ice time…Weiss won 19 of 34 faceoffs…Gregory Campbell and McCabe each had four hits…Campbell also had two blocks…The Panthers held the first of three food drives Saturday for the Cooperative Feeding Program in Broward County. Fans can bring non-perishable food items to stock pantry shelves at the Cooperative Feeding Program again Monday when the Panthers play the Kings and Nov. 23 before the Panthers-Penguins game…The Panthers are on ice Sunday at incredibleIce at 10:30 a.m
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