Those words only started to explain the unexplainable Tuesday evening at BankAtlantic Center. Fighting for a playoff spot and meeting a Capitals team playing their third game in four nights, the Panthers inexplicably couldn’t find their game, the net, or their desperation and went down in flames 3-0 to the Capitals.
How bad was it? Down 2-0 with 17 minutes remaining in regulation, the Panthers didn’t register a shot in the third period. Twenty minutes without a single shot. The first time in four seasons – and only the sixth time in franchise history – the Panthers failed to register a single shot in a period.
The Panthers theme song for the evening? Sleepwalker. They were 0-for-4 on the power play, they failed to have any presence in front of Capitals goalie Jose Theodore, and they passed up several chances to take shots in the third period and on those power plays.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who blasted his team after Monday’s 5-1 loss in Atlanta, said; “To hold them to zero shots in the third period and 19 in their building in a game that they had to win was quite a testament.”
The loss prevented the Panthers from gaining any ground in the Eastern Conference, where they sit in ninth-place a point behind eighth-place Carolina with a game in hand. They lost ground on the seventh-place Rangers, who beat sixth-place Montreal in a shootout, and the fifth-place Penguins, who beat the Thrashers.
“I don’t have an explanation for it,” said Panthers coach Peter DeBoer after the game. “There’s been very few nights this year I’ve questioned our effort level. It’s not always pretty, we haven’t always won, but usually we’ve brought a good desperation level and the effort has always been there. Tonight, it was questionable, which is disappointing.”
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Brooks Laich 2nd: Viktor Kozlov 3rd: Jose Theodore
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
Succinctly, the Panthers played roughly 30 minutes Tuesday evening. DeBoer gave them credit for 20.
“We played one period tonight, the second,” he said. “You’re not going to beat anybody – we’re not going to beat anybody playing 20 minutes. We have to play 60 minutes to compete, just to have a chance to compete with teams, especially a team like Washington.”
Despite talking about a quick start, the Panthers were “tentative” in the first period, according to DeBoer. “You never want to start the way we started the first 10 minutes,” he said.
But the Panthers picked it up a bit in the final 10 minutes of the opening period, getting seven of their eight shots, and seemingly jump-started by a scoring chance from Nick Tarnasky. The Panthers had more quality scoring chances in the first, but Theodore stopped Gregory Campbell and Michael Frolik.
Theodore, pulled in the second period Monday after allowing four goals, was strong in goal, preventing any rebounds and second chances in front of his net. The Panthers also helped by not creating traffic in front of the Capitals net.
The Panthers picked up their game in the second and had three power plays in the span of nine minutes. But the power play, languishing near the bottom of the league, failed to produce a goal. Instead, it produced the Capitals seventh short-handed goal of the year.
Moments after Theodore stopped David Booth on the rush, defenseman John Erskine cleared the puck from the Capitals zone and Brooks Laich got behind the Panther defense and came down the wing on Vokoun. Vokoun came out of his crease and slid to his right. Laich, from a bad angle, shot the puck just outside Vokoun’s stick and inside the far post to make it a 1-0 game at 5:46 of the second period.
“I felt I had him,” Vokoun recalled. “I was way out of my crease. Definitely, it’s something as a goalie you would like back. Not a good goal.”
The third period started poorly for the Panthers and only got worse. After the Panthers successfully killed off a penalty just 22 seconds into the third period, Viktor Kozlov snapped a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that flew into the Panther goal for a 2-0 lead. Mike Green added an empty net goal at 18:33.
“It’s not like they outchanced us,” Eminger said.
But the Panthers did nothing on this night to help themselves. DeBoer, looking over the score sheet after the game, rattled off names and shots on goal. Stephen Weiss, Cory Stillman and Richard Zednik had one shot each. Jay Bouwmeester had no shots.
“No excuse for the third period,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t win a battle in the offensive zone. Their ‘D’ smothered us and we didn’t fight back enough.”
Despite losing their last four games and extracting only two of eight points, the Panthers find themselves in a position to still decide their own fate. But they need help from their special teams, need to get back to scoring what DeBoer has called “dirty goals,” and they need to be more aggressive.
“We need to get our power play going and get some kind of spark,” Vokoun said.
When asked if he needs to find a way to elevate his teams level of desperation, DeBoer said; “If you can’t look at the standings and create that desperation now, I don’t know how you create it.”
The Panthers better find a way. They’ve lost the first two games of this crucial, five-game homestand and now need to get ready Thursday for Toronto, Saturday for Columbus and Monday for a team they’re battling for a playoff spot – the Carolina Hurricanes.
BOUWMEESTER VS OVECHKIN
Alex Ovechkin, searching for his 50th goal of the season, was held in check by the Panthers. With only one Washington power play the entire night, Ovechkin was only on the ice for 19:04 and was held to four shots. Boudreau gave Panther defenseman Jay Bouwmeester credit.
“Jay’s always been good on Alex,” he said. “He’s a really good player. I think Alex probably only played (19) minutes because we didn’t have any power plays at all. But that’s why you need secondary scoring. When you put your best player, in their case Bouwmeester, on Alex, you need those other lines to step it up and play against the guys that aren’t their best player. And when that happens, you usually have success.”
Vokoun was honored for playing 500 NHL games before the opening faceoff…Capitals defenseman Tom Poti had seven blocked shots. The Caps had 20 blocked shots, the Panthers 11…Gregory Campbell had five hits…Steve Eminger had four blocked shots…Nick Boynton and Anthony Stewart were healthy scratches for the Panthers…Brian Pothier and Donald Brashear did not dress for the Caps…