SUNRISE – Late Wednesday evening, the Panthers left BankAtlantic Center after having earned a point in their eighth consecutive game. But just as important was what happened during their 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers.
“We stuck up for each other,” coach Peter DeBoer said.
Having lacked a physical presence the past several years, the Panthers went toe-to-toe with the Rangers while boosting their record to 8-2-3 over the last 11 games as they prepared for back-to-back games this weekend, home Friday against the Maple Leafs and Saturday in Nashville.
Steve MacIntyre, called up earlier in the day from the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester, took on one of the league’s toughest enforcers in Donald Brashear in the second period. His fight was book-ended by rookie Victor Oreskovich.
Oreskovich took out Wade Redden for the remainder of the game after delivering a huge hit on the veteran defenseman early in the first period. After delivering another big hit on veteran Vinny Prospal early in the third period, Oreskovich was jumped by Matt Gilroy, who drew a misconduct, major and instigator penalty.
“Mac (MacIntyre) jumping in and Vic (Oreskovich) standing up for himself…that’s the type of team we have to be,” DeBoer said. “We have to stand up for each other and stand up for ourselves and be hard to play against here at home. I thought it was a real good effort.”
The positive was the Panthers standing up for each other, coming back from a 1-0 deficit on Dominic Moore’s second goal of the season with 4:53 remaining in regulation, and killing off a penalty in overtime. Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t convert on five power-play opportunities. They’re now zero for their last 14 and 11-for-89 on the season.
“We’ve got (David) Booth and Cory Stillman sitting in the stands,” DeBoer said. “It is what it is. We’re not going to score a lot of goals five-on-five, on the power play, on the penalty kill with the lineup we have. We have to win games 1-0, 2-1.”
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Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Panthers couldn’t get on track offensively in the first period and were outshot 8-2 with their second shot coming in the final minute. But goalie Tomas Vokoun continued playing well and kept things scoreless with a little help from defenseman Jordan Leopold, who cleared a puck from the crease that leaked through Vokoun’s pads midway through the first period.
The Panthers best shot at scoring through the opening 40 minutes came at 13:51 of the second period when Radek Dvorak slid the puck from behind the net to Shawn Matthias in front of the Ranger net. Unfortunately, Matthias missed the net.
It remained scoreless late in the second until the Rangers Marian Gaborik, the league’s leading goal scorer, gave New York a 1-0 lead on the power play when he redirected a shot past Vokoun off a shot from the point by Chris Drury, playing his first game after missing the previous five with a concussion.
“It was a big goal before the end of the period,” said Gaborik of his 19th goal.
The Panthers didn’t let down, however. “We found a way to hang around,” DeBoer said. And it paid off at 15:07 of the third period when Moore picked up a loose puck just inside the Rangers blue line that Sean Avery couldn’t control and wristed the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game at one.
The Panthers survived being short-handed in overtime – something they couldn’t overcome in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins – to get the game to a shootout. But Nathan Horton, Steve Reinprecht and Stephen Weiss were all stopped by Lundqvist. Vokoun stopped Gaborik, but couldn’t stop PA Parenteau, who scored his second shootout winner since being called up from the minors two weeks ago.
“It’s great to get a point, but you look at the score sheet every night and points are precious right now,” said Leopold. “We fought back but we want to cash in and get the second point.”
Moore said the Panthers still have to focus on improving.
“Against Pitt (Monday) we had to keep our foot on the gas,” he said. “Today it’s getting out of the gates early. There are different things we have to take from each game and learn from them.”
The Panthers hope to put their lessons learned to use Friday against the Maple Leafs.
SEXTON ON KOISTINEN
GM Randy Sexton was asked before Wednesday’s game about the decision to place defenseman Ville Koistinen on waivers. Koistinen has been a healthy scratch in six of the past eight games.
“You want players contributing,” he said. “He had trouble getting into the lineup. The good news on defense (is) Dmitry Kulikov stepped up and played well. The other piece of good news is, thank goodness, we’ve had no injuries. Our development system is working. Kenndal (McArdle) has come up and played terrific. Vic (Oreskovich) has come up and played terrific. Rather than have (Koistinen) be a healthy scratch all the time, we want to give him an opportunity to play.”
The Panthers will know at noon tomorrow whether anyone claims Koistinen. “We have a plan of action from there,” Sexton added.
Defenseman Keith Ballard led all skaters in ice time with 30:27. He played 27:59 Monday against the Penguins…With Gilroy and Redden out of the game, Ranger defenseman Marc Staal logged 30:24…Drury won 12-of-16 faceoffs…Vokoun stopped 27 shots, seven in overtime…MacIntyre played 2:30…Gregory Campbell, who’s missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, hopes to play Friday against the Maple Leafs…