SUNRISE – It could have been different Monday evening for the Panthers.
They didn’t have to leave the BankAtlantic Center with a feeling of déjà vu against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. But for the second time in a month, and the third time in their last four meetings, the Panthers couldn’t hold a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes against the defending Stanley Cup champions. On Oct. 23, the Panthers lost in a shootout. This time, they went down in overtime.
With Nathan Horton sitting in the penalty box for taking a high-sticking double minor at 1:25 of overtime against Brooks Orpik – a penalty called by a linesman - Crosby slapped home a rebound from an Evgeni Malkin shot to take the extra point and a 3-2 victory.
Despite the overtime setback, the Panthers have now earned points in 10 of their last 12 games – points in seven consecutive games - and await Wednesday’s game against the Rangers with a 10-9-3 record.
Yes, the penalty on Horton was hard to take. “I didn’t see it,” said coach Peter DeBoer. “I don’t know what happened,” Horton said. But the Panthers “slowed down a little in the third (period),” admitted defenseman Keith Ballard, who scored his first goal of the season and the Panthers second of the night.
“It was almost like we were trying to hang on,” he added.
Indeed. The Panthers were outshot 16-3 in the third period, getting only one shot on Fleury in the final 10 minutes, and couldn’t sustain any pressure in the opposing zone.
“We didn’t handle the third period well,” DeBoer said. “I think it was just a matter of time before they got one. We didn’t handle the lead or the pressure they were putting on us.”
It was unfortunate, because the Panthers played a strong opening 40 minutes and got another strong performance in goal by Tomas Vokoun, who is now 7-1-2 in his last 10 games.
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Sidney Crosby 2nd: Keith Ballard 3rd: Nathan Horton
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
The Panthers first goal with only 2:27 remaining in the opening period was a beauty. Stephen Weiss drew three Penguin skaters to him as well as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury when he carried the puck across the blue line and skated from his left to right. He then turned and fired the puck from the right faceoff circle back to his left and Horton, who had an open net to score his seventh goal of the season.
Horton and Weiss now each have three goals and five assists in their last six games.
The Panthers made it 2-0 at 10:21 of the second period on a play that started with Horton winning a puck battle at center ice against the Penguins Mark Eaton. Michael Frolik, sent into the Penguins zone by Horton, stopped in the left circle before passing the puck back to Ballard, who skated across the Penguins blue line and blasted the puck above Fleury’s glove.
The Panthers had their chances to add on to their lead. Both Horton and Dominic Moore hit posts, Radek Dvorak was robbed by Fleury in the second period, and the Panthers couldn’t finish several odd-man rushes.
The Penguins then went to work. First, Pascal Dupuis scored at 4:49 of the third period when he knocked a rebound past Vokoun. Then, with the Panthers unable to clear their zone for 1:30, Rupp, parked in front of the Panther net, shoved the puck past Vokoun to tie the game at two with 2:32 remaining in regulation.
Just a month ago, Crosby tied the game at two against the Panthers with 3:19 remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Horton was called for high sticking Orpik, an infraction that occurred as Horton was falling to the ice and his stick clipped the Penguins defenseman. The penalty wasn’t called until there was a stoppage of play as stated by rule 33.4, which reads a linesman may report what he witnessed to the referee pertaining to a “double-minor penalty when it is apparent that an injury has resulted from a high-stick that has gone undetected by the referee.”
With the man advantage in overtime, the defending Stanley Cup champs won for the fourth time in their last five games when Crosby scored his 11th goal of the season.
“Down four-on-three, somebody is going to open,” Ballard said. “If we want to be considered a good team, we have to be able to play with the lead.”
Defenseman Jordan Leopold called it a “tough loss…but we got a big point, we can’t hang our heads.”
“I think we could have had three or four goals,” DeBoer said. “I think against a team like that you have to cash in on your opportunities. We missed some breakaways, hit a couple posts. We have to be opportunistic to beat a team like that with three or four American League players in the lineup, and we weren’t tonight.”
The Panthers get another chance at home Wednesday against the Rangers.
The Panthers unveiled their third jerseys Monday evening to critical acclaim. “Hopefully, these work good for us,” Horton said. “I think its fun,” said goalie Scott Clemmensen of third jerseys. “Throw an extra color in there.”…Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg led the Panthers with six hits, three in the first period. Ballard had five…Dominic Moore won five of six faceoffs…Ballard led all skaters with 27:59 of ice time…Shawn Matthias, who played 5:08 Saturday against the Rangers, was on the ice Monday for 6:08…Horton: Plus-2, four hits, a goal, assist, and 2-for-2 in the faceoff circle…Crosby had eight shots and won 12 of 19 faceoffs…Cory Stillman (lower body) has not skated and was due Monday to get an MRI…Gregory Campbell (upper body) skated before the team’s morning practice but did not play…The Penguins were without forwards Tyler Kennedy (groin) and Chris Kunitz (lower body) and defensemen Alex Goligoski (lower body), Jay McKee (finger) and Kris Letang (shoulder)….The Panthers practice Tuesday at 10:30 at incredibleIce in Coral Springs...
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