That’s the abridged version of the Panthers game Monday evening against the Kings.
The point earned came courtesy of rookie Victor Oreskovich, whose late third period goal – his first in the NHL - sent the game into a shootout. The lesson learned was when you get the chance, you have to snuff the life out of your opponent.
Leading 2-0 early in the second period after scoring goals 1:35 apart, the Panthers had several opportunities to bury the Kings, who were closing out a five-game road trip with their third game in four nights.
But they couldn’t put a fork in the Kings, who showed the Panthers why they’re one of the top young teams in the league. After scoring two power play goals and a shorthanded goal in regulation, Jack Johnson scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Kings a 4-3 victory.
The Panthers, haunted recently by poor starts, played a strong game against one of the West’s top teams. But two offensive-zone penalties, one leading to a power-play goal, and some big saves by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the second period killed the Panthers. Despite the loss, the Panthers have now earned points in six of their last eight games.
“We have to learn to win games when we have the lead,” said Cory Stillman, who had a goal and assist and now has nine points in his last seven games.
“Once you have that start, getting a 2-0 lead, you have to do something with it,” said defenseman Keith Ballard.
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After opening Saturday’s game against the Islanders dull and lethargic, the Panthers were solid in the opening period and they were rewarded in the second. Nathan Horton made it 1-0 when he snapped a wrist shot past Quick from the left slot. Just 1:35 later, Stillman scored his fifth of the season after a cross-ice pass from Steve Reinprecht on a play that started on a great outlet pass from defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.
The Panthers then had several opportunities to make it 3-0, but Quick stopped a couple odd-man rushes and a shot in close from Stillman. Meanwhile, the Kings didn’t panic. “We stayed with it,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “We had some good scoring chances and we were not giving up a lot.
After Johnson scored on the power play at 9:10 against a partially-screened Vokoun, the Panthers took two consecutive offensize-zone penalties. The first against Kamil Kreps didn’t cost them. But the second against Radek Dvorak at 2:23 of the third led to a Jarret Stoll goal that went off defenseman Jordan Leopold.
“We knew they were a high-skilled team with a good power play,” Vokoun said.
It got worse before it got better for the Panthers when defenseman Randy Jones scored short-handed on a rebound off a Michal Handzus shot to make it 3-2. But with 14:55 remaining in the game, Oreskovich, Stillman and Reinprecht buzzed the Kings end with help from rookie Dmitry Kulikov, who crept down below the goal. When the puck made its way to the point, Bryan Allen took a shot that hit Quick and then bounced in the air. The only person who seemed to see it was Oreskovich, who grabbed the puck in midair with his hand, put it down, and buried it into an empty net to tie the game at three.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Oreskovich, who left the game of hockey for two years before being invited to training camp this summer by the Panthers. “The timing made it a little sweeter.”
Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t run their shootout record to 5-1. Olesz, Reinprecht and Stillman were all stopped by Quick. Johnson, 5-for-9 in shootouts, got the only puck past Vokoun.
“The game should have been won in regulation,” Vokoun said. “Teams are too good. You saw the game against the Islanders. They let us back (from a 2-0 deficit) and wound up losing. Same thing happened to us today.”
DeBoer, whose team hits the road for three games in four nights beginning Wednesday in Buffalo, was pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“I thought we played a good game,” he said. “I thought we did a lot of things well. We competed in a lot of the tough areas tonight, which was something we wanted to concentrate on.”
Still, the Panthers know they can’t give away too many two-goal leads.
“We do a lot of good things then have a letdown,” Stillman said.
“We gave them too many chances,” Vokoun said. “On the other hand, when it was 3-2 we battled hard and scored the tying goal.
Point earned, lesson learned.
The Panthers next three opponents on the road – the Sabres, Red Wings and Rangers – have a combined record of 33-17-5…The Panthers blocked 14 shots…Gregory Campbell had five hits…Kenndal McArdle and Wayne Simmonds took five minute fighting majors at 6:31 of the second period…The hit of the game was provided by Kulikov on Handzus…The Kings were without defenseman Rob Scuderi, who suffered a lower-body injury Saturday in Tampa…The Kings have allowed a league-high 29 third period goals…Panthers at incredible ICE for 10:30 practice Tuesday…