Boston Bruins' Marco Sturm is checked from behind by Florida Panthers' Olli Jokinen as Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun covers the nets during the first period of NHL hockey game at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
There’s not much to really say anymore.
For the Panthers, it’s become like Groundhog Day. It’s the same game over and over and over again.
For the third consecutive game, the Panthers blew a two-goal lead in the third period. The only difference Thursday evening was they took this game into a shootout before getting stopped by former teammate Alex Auld on all three shots and losing to the Bruins 5-4 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers are six points behind Carolina in the Southeast Division and six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They hit the road tomorrow for a two-game road trip through Philadelphia and then New York against the Rangers.
The Panthers reputation for blowing third period leads is no longer a secret to anyone in the league. Despite entering the third period trailing 4-2, Bruins coach Claude Julien commented; “Coming into the third we knew that this team (Panthers) had blown two goals leads in a couple games.”
Gm and coach Jacques Martin appeared dumbfounded after the game.
“Some people worked really hard and gave us a great game, and some people didn’t,” he said. “We have to have better performances from certain people…If we didn’t have injuries, they wouldn’t be dressing.”
The line of Rostislav Olesz, Steve Montador and Gregory Campbell played strongly, combining for two goals and four assists. Kamil Kreps and David Booth also had strong games. But too many times key players seemed to be invisible.
The Panthers 4-2 lead, or their house of cards, came apart with 6:50 remaining in the game when, with Jay Bouwmeester in the penalty box on a delay-of-game penalty, Zdeno Chara beat Tomas Vokoun to make get the Bruins within one.
Just 1:38 later, Phil Kessel tied the game on a tipped shot from the faceoff circle Vokoun said he should have had. Marco Sturm scored the only Bruin goal in the shootout while Nathan Horton, Steve Montador and Olli Jokinen were all blanked by Auld, who replaced starter Tim Thomas at the beginning of the third period.
“It’s tough to deal with,” said Vokoun, who stopped 44 shots in regulation. “We take penalties, we make bad penalties at bad times. It’s not easy to point to one thing.
“We’re fragile when it comes to finishing games. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
Said Bouwmeester, “It can’t be coincidence.”
The final six minutes spoiled the first 50 minutes.
The Panthers started quickly when just 2:40 into the game, a Bryan Allen shot from the point bounced off Bouwmeester and past Thomas for a 1-0 lead.
After Marco Sturm tied the game at 1:58 of the second period, the Panthers role players took over. First, Steve Montador, who had a fight earlier in the night, gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead at 9:32 of the second after strong forechecking by Gregory Campbell. Then Rostislav Olesz made it 3-1 when he skated around the Bruins goal and tucked the puck in the corner of the net.
The Panthers were then whistled for three consecutive penalties – and Dennis Wideman made them pay on one – and the Bruins were down by only one. But with only a second remaining in the second period, Kamil Kreps beat Thomas on a feed by David Booth and the Panthers went into the third period with a 4-2 lead.
Then the roof came in.
“Whatever the reason, it keep happening,” said defenseman Cory Murphy.
“It’s a result of us being too casual with the lead,” said forward Gregory Campbell.
The result, however, is the Panthers are letting valuable points slip away. With only 19 games remaining – and just five days to the trade deadline - the Panthers better correct the problem and fast.
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