Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun (29), blocks a shot by Buffalo Sabres' Clarke MacArthur (41) as Olli Jokinen (12), defends in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
The Panthers needed help Wednesday evening.
With scoring leader Olli Jokinen unable to play after the first period due to flu-like symptoms, the Panthers needed someone to step up and help the offense. But Sabres goalie Ryan Miller turned aside 32 shots as the Panthers were shutout 1-0 at BankAtlantic Center.
After taking nine shifts and playing 6:18 of the first period, Jokinen was forced to leave the game. “Just sick, vomiting, he just couldn’t play,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “He was sick before the game and felt worse after the first period.”
So without Jokinen, who had four goals in his past seven games and points in six of those seven games, the Panthers tried to rebound after a sluggish start and a scoreless first period.
But just 40 seconds into the second period while on the power play, the Sabres scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game when Thomas Vanek picked up a rebound all alone in the high slot and fired it past Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun, who made 40 saves on the night, made huge saves five minutes later on shots from Derek Roy and Ales Kotalik. Then, after taking only nine shots in the first 27 minutes, the Panthers went to work.
At the 13:00 minute mark of the second period, Nathan Horton took a wrist shot from the slot that slowly leaked through Miller’s pads. While Kamil Kreps tried to wrestle his way to the puck, Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder swept the puck behind the from the crease.
“We had good chances. We definitely had enough chances to get one goal. If we got one, it might have been a different story. But we played hard for 60 minutes. Some nights the puck isn’t going to go in. That’s hockey. You can’t get down on yourself.”
-Forward Stephen Weiss
Stat of the Game
Panthers netminder has faced 40 shots or more in his past three games. After seeing 46 shots against the Senators and 40 shots against the Oilers, Vokoun stopped 40 of the 41 shots he faced.
Miller was strong the remainder of the game, especially during power play at 8:41 of the final period when he made big saves on Stephen Weiss (who won all three draws during the power play), Horton and Ruslan Salei.
“We had good chances,” Weiss said. “We definitely had enough chances to get one goal. If we got one, it might have been a different story. But we played hard for 60 minutes. Some nights the puck isn’t going to go in. That’s hockey. You can’t get down on yourself.”
Vokoun, who has faced 40 or more shots this year 10 times and has faced 127 shots in his last three games, agreed.
“I think the effort was there,” he said. “That’s the one and only thing we can accept. It’s a tough one to lose, but that’s the way hockey is.”
The Panthers might have come back in the final minutes, but defensemen Branislav Mezei, returning to the lineup after a nine game absence with a hand injury, took a careless elbowing penalty at 17:20 of the third period. It was the last of three penalties called on the Panthers, and those penalties didn’t make Martin happy.
“The penalties were deserved, they were selfish penalties,” he said. “Late in the game there’s no need to take an elbow.:
The Panthers must now regroup and prepare for Friday’s game at BankAtlantic Center against the Canucks, who are 26-20-5 and in seventh-place in the Western Conference.
“We have to look at the month of February as a key month to try and stay in the (playoff) race,” Martin said.
It’s a month of 15 games and one that will go a long way in determining the Panther’s fate.
Jozef Stumpel, who returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a shoulder injury, played 18:00 minutes (22 shifts) and had five shots…With Branislav Mezei back in the lineup, Magnus Johannson was a healthy scratch…
1 - 0 BUF
Holding the stick