Calgary Flames' Dion Phaneuf (3) controls the puck as Florida Panthers' Kamil Kreps, (54) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, at the BankAtlantic Center. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
One step forward, two steps back.
The Panthers could have embarked on a four-game road trip with a huge victory Tuesday evening at BankAtlantic Center against the Calgary Flames. But a solid performance ended in one point rather than two when the Panthers lost to the Flames 2-1 in a shootout.
Leading 1-0 with just seconds remaining, the Panthers fell back on old habits by allowing a goal late in the game. This time, they couldn’t stop Jarome Iginla from banging home a rebound to tie the game with 11 seconds in regulation. Then, after a scoreless overtime, former Panther Kristian Huselius scored the only goal in the shootout as Olli Jokinen, Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton were all stopped by goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
It was a disappointing ending to a game in which the Panthers played a strong game, especially goalie Tomas Vokoun. Unfortunately, they came up 11 seconds short and ended a five-game homestand 1-3-1. Now it’s on to St. Louis to begin a four-game trip.
“I think we played pretty well, but we didn’t win and that’s the bottom line,” said Vokoun, who stopped 32 shots.
“We played a strong game but we made a mistake in the end,” added Radek Dvorak.
"It's always tough when it's a broken play like that because it's really tough to read where he's going to shoot. It's a tough way to lose a lead." - goaltender Tomas Vokoun on the Flames goal to tie the score with 10.2 seconds left.
Stat of the Game
Vokoun was 10.2 seconds from his second straight shutout. He blanked the Islanders 3-0 on Dec. 7th. It would have been his third back-to-back shutout of his career.
The Panthers, who have gone 14 games (since 2003) since beating a Northwest Division team, started the game slowly but were saved by Vokoun. Coming off a 3-0 shutout Friday against the Islanders, Vokoun made several big saves in the first 20 minutes, including a save on a deflection by Craig Conroy and a glove save on Huselius.
“There goaltender was very sharp,” agreed Calgary coach Mike Keenan.
The Panthers came out with better energy in the second period. They outshot the Flames 13-7 and their work was rewarded at 16:03 of the second period when Jokinen scored his 16th goal of the season.
After Jay Bouwmeester stopped a Calgary clearing pass on the right boards, the puck wound up on the left side and Bryan Allen. The big defenseman took a shot on goal that Kiprusoff stopped. But an attempted clear in front of the net by Daymond Langkow wound up on Jokinen’s stick. A quick wrist shot by Jokinen landed over Kiprusoff’s glove for a 1-0 lead.
The third period featured great end-to-end action in the first 10 minutes. But the Flames slowly picked up their assault on Vokoun, who was attempting to pitch the first back-to-back Panther shutouts since October of 2005.
Things looked promising with under a minute left when Rostislav Olesz skated down the left side with the puck and was staring at an empty net. But Olesz might have kept the puck too long, and his shot was blocked by Matthew Lombardi, one of two Flames to come back on the play.
“If we score that’s the game,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “Sometimes that’s the learning curve of a kid.”
The Flames rushed the puck up ice and, after Alex Tanguay circled inside the blue line away from Jozef Stumpel, he shot toward a crowd in front of the goal. The puck hit a body, fell to the ice, and Iginla swiped at it and beat Vokoun to the short side.
In overtime, while Vokoun was stopping Adrian Aucoin through a screen, Kiprosuff was stopping Richard Zednik with 2:22 remaining in overtime and Jokinen with only 50 seconds left.
In the shootout, Huselius scored on a backhand high over Vokoun’s stick side. It was all the Flames would need as Kiprusoff stopped the Panthers.
“I thought we played a strong game,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “Just a mistake at the end of the game cost us. A bad break.”
Asked about the team’s tendency the past two years to give up goals in the final minute, Martin said the team has to build on the positives from Tuesday’s game.
“You get that kind of effort…that’s what we need on the road. We have to play well, keep our game simple and play strong defensively. That should help us win some games.”
Vokoun said the Panthers have to find ways to win these kinds of games. “We need out scorers to score, our penalty killers, goaltending, everything. If any of those are lacking, it’s tough to win. That’s why we talk about 60 minute games and we need 21 guys playing.”