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Buffaloed: Panthers Lose Third Straight ... Hurricanes Pass Cats, Maple Leafs Next?


With all the former Florida Panthers in the building Saturday night, it's a shame original goalie John Vanbiesbrouck couldn't make it.

He might have been asked to play.

Tomas Vokoun was pulled after giving up a pair of soft goals within the first 23 minutes Saturday night as the Northeast Division leading Sabres continued their march to the playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.

Saturday's loss – Florida's third straight – spoiled the beginning of a reunion weekend of sorts as players from the team's past gathered to open the South Florida Hockey Den of Honor on the arena's concourse level.

Vanbiesbrouck, who backstopped Florida's run to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals, was working a college hockey playoff tournament in Detroit for television and couldn't attend the event.

“I didn't think he was good enough tonight, but it was a spark thing too,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, who has pulled Vokoun in the second period in two of the past three games. “It wasn't a good enough first period by anyone, including our goaltender. I don't analyze my decision. I thought it was the right thing to do. Clemmensen played well.''

The Sabres got going when Jochen Hecht drove in on Vokoun and put up a shot that Vokoun got a piece of but couldn't stop. Early in the second, Patrick Kaleta made it 2-0 when he fired a shot from the goal line that clipped a diving Vokoun but still found its way in.

Scott Clemmensen, who has made a grand total of one start in the 2010 calendar year, was summoned from the bullpen.

“There was a lucky bounce on the second goal against Vokoun, but there was a lot of game left,'' said Clemmensen, who stopped 16 shots but gave up the backbreaking goal to Mike Grier with 6:11 left. “I went in there to do my best and I thought we played well.''

Byron Bitz, who missed the past four games with what is believed to be a groin injury, was back in the lineup Saturday and paid almost immediate dividends. With the Panthers trailing 2-0 in the second, Bitz knocked down a shot from Kamil Kreps in front of the net, turned and pushed the puck past Buffalo's Ryan Miller.

Bitz, who was acquired from Boston in the Dennis Seidenberg trade deadline deal, got his first goal as a member of the Panthers.

“We were sluggish in the first period, but weathered the storm,'' Bitz said. “That's probably the best goalie in the league over there and he made some stops.''

With the loss, Florida dropped to 14th in the Eastern Conference as Carolina moved a point ahead. The Panthers are now endanger of finishing last in the entire conference as Toronto has moved to within three points of Florida.


The Panthers unveiled their 4,000 square foot tribute to hockey in the region on Saturday. The South Florida Hockey Den of Honor wasn't finished until a few hours before its grand opening as a number of staffers worked through the night to make sure it was finished. One said he had been at the arena for 29 straight hours.

By all accounts, the hard work was worth it. The 'Den' was a major hit.

“This weekend is very special to each and every one of us,'' said Brian Skrudland, the team's first captain.

Not only is there plenty of Panthers memorabilia from throughout the decades on display, but high school and youth hockey in the area. Each high school team from Broward County has its jersey on display – including the one worn by Peter Worrell's North Broward Prep team.

“This can be an inspiration for kids to see that they can make it to this level,'' said Worrell, who played for the Panthers from 1997-2003. “And I know they will be thrilled to come to a game and see their jersey hanging up. And they get to make fun of their coach when they see all those old pictures.''

All of the players and coaches – including Doug MacLean, Scott Mellanby and Paul Laus -- are expected to attend Sunday's game against the Lightning as well.


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Now they need a den of dishonor to commemorate the last 10 years of hockey in the region.

I wish they would worry about winning today and not worry about having won 10 years ago....

worrisome lost, losing on den of honor night. embarassing but nothing unsual for this team. We can only wonder why Tarnasky was out the last game for most of the third period - when we was playing well. Again they scratch him, and they lose. What did Tarnasky do? Did he play too well so that they could win?

Horrible game last night, but at least we'll get a higher draft pick when the season is over. We'll probably lose tonight as well.

We need one of the top 3 picks, preferably the 1st (not happening) or 2nd. Lose away, I say...sadly. Let's see what these new owners are made of.

with this teams luck they would lose the lottery and fall back in the draft instead of moving up, but then again it really doesn't matter as this team has blown the 1st overall pick 3 out of the 4 times they had the pick the only time they were right was in year two with Jovocop.

They missed with Bouwmeester,Horton and trading the pick for Koslov.

The Panthers didn't miss on Bouwmeester and Horton. They have just failed to develop them and surround them with the appropriate talent. And like Eddie Jo, the fans bailed on them.

If the Panthers get a top three pick, they truly need to trade it for a sweet package deal. They need to add more talent, not just one top talent. How well did Bure look in Florida being the only man with talent? Kovalchuk in Atlanta? Washington wouldn't be as good as they are with Ovie without players like Semin and Backstom.

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