That’s how Panthers coach Peter DeBoer summed up his team’s 4-1 loss Wednesday evening to the Stars at BankAtlantic Center, a loss that snapped the Panthers’ eight-game point streak but still has them in the middle of the playoff hunt going into the All-Star break.
Despite a strong first period and a 1-0 lead, the Panthers seemed to fade in the final 40 minutes and were stung by Mike Ribeiro’s hat trick and an excellent game in goal by Marty Turco. Fortunately, the Panthers didn’t lose any ground in the standings.
“I think they raised their level a notch and we didn’t,” DeBoer said of the final two periods. “I don’t know why. It didn’t seem like we had a lot of gas in the tank tonight.”
It was the Panthers’ fourth game in six nights. But according to defenseman Bryan McCabe; “They kind of set the pace and we kind of sat back on our heels. You’ll lose a lot of games like that.”
Modano, who tied the game at one on the power play in the second period, said the Stars didn’t do anything fancy after being out-played in the first period.
“Everybody had to come to the puck hard and try to get some forecheck going,” Modano said. “I felt like we pushed them back on their heels.”
It also didn’t hurt that Turco, who stopped 27 shots, including a few beauties off the stick of David Booth, handled the puck well and didn’t allow the Panthers to establish much of a forecheck throughout the evening.
“Every time you dumped it in he handled the puck and came out every time,” said Anthony Stewart of Turco.
“If he gets hold of it, it’s definitely a factor,” Stephen Weiss said. “Both defensemen go to one corner and you don’t know who to go to. (Turco’s) like a third defenseman, and he’s pretty mobile and he gets in the corner, too. But there’s no excuse for being flat the final two periods.”
Turco is the third hot goaltender the Panthers have run up against in their last four games, along with Ryan Miller Monday and the Flyer’s Antero Niittymaki last week.
Despite the loss, the Panthers head into the All-Star break with:
*The most wins (21) at this point in the season since 1999-00.
*Points in 21 of their last 27 games.
*A defense that leads the NHL in goals (31).
“We don’t have 10, 12 points to make up,” said Weiss, referring to past seasons at the All-Star break. “It’s nice to know that going into the break, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Mike Ribeiro 2nd: MiKe Modano 3rd: James Neal
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
The Panthers seemed hungry to run their point-streak to nine games in the opening period. They outshot the Stars 8-3 through the opening 11 minutes and forced Turco to make a couple big saves early before defenseman Karlis Skrastins made it 1-0 at 12:41.
Kamil Kreps skated down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Skrastins after Stewart sent them away from inside the Panther blue line and Stars’ defenseman Matt Niskanen got caught up ice. Turco stopped Kreps’ slapshot, but Skrastins, who kept skating toward the net, got the rebound and back-handed it past Turco.
It was Skrastins third goal of the season, his first since Nov. 1.
But the Stars tied the game on the power play at 12:33 of the second period courtesy of Modano. The Stars’ veteran, standing in the right corner, sent a cross-ice pass back to Brad Richards at the left point. Richards sent the puck back to Modano, who buried it in the Panther goal past Tomas Vokoun (21 saves).
Then with under a minute remaining in the second period, the Stars took a 2-1 lead on an easy goal by Ribeiro after James Neal redirected a pass to him from Niskanen at the point. The Stars made it 3-1 when Steve Ott sent Ribeiro away on a breakaway with a pass off the boards just inside the Panther blue line. Ribeiro skated in on an angle and wristed a shot past Vokoun’s glove.
Ribeiro added his third goal of the game at 19:34 into an empty net. It was his first hat trick since juniors.
DeBoer said the loss has to be put in perspective. After all, he said, “We’ve played some awful good hockey and picked up points in eight straight games.”
“We’re a team that has to play with energy and we have to skate,” he said. “If we’re a little off energy-wise, we can look vulnerable, and we looked vulnerable tonight.”
With Jay Bouwmeester and Michael Frolik headed to Montreal for All-Star weekend, the Panthers go into the break 21-17-8. They’ll gather again Monday at IncredibleIce for practice and to prepare for a huge game Tuesday at BankAtlantic Center against the Flyers and then Thursday play host to Montreal.
Keith Ballard sent Darryl Sydor to the ice with a crushing check in the first period. Sydor took a minute to get up, but continued playing. Ballard had four hits and two blocked shots…Cory Stillman sent Niskanen to the ice with a punch in the second period. Stewart and Brian Sutherby went at it in the first…Scratches for Dallas: Chris Conner and Doug Janik. Florida: Ville Peltonen (bruised knee) and Nick Boynton…Booth had five shots and went on break with 12 shots in his last two games…
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