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E-1: Panthers Take 3-0 Lead vs. Coyotes ... Lose 4-3 in Shootout




There are a few reasons why the Phoenix Coyotes are gunning for the top seed in the Western Conference this season and the Panthers are only a few spots away from last place in the entire league.

Thursday night offered yet another example.

Leading by a goal late in the third period, Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun couldn't field a shot from 105 feet away, the puck skipping off the ice in front of the net before bouncing off his glove and into the back of the net.

Phoenix's goal tied the game – one the Panthers led by three going into the period – and forced overtime where the Coyotes ended up winning 4-3 in a shootout. The win was Phoenix's seventh straight; the Panthers have dropped two in a row.

“That's why that team is where they're at: They find ways to win,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “You see one of those [goals] in a season in the NHL in all the games. It is what it is. For us, it seems like it's Murphy's Law. Whatever can go wrong does.''

With Nathan Horton back from injury, the Panthers had their top line intact Thursday for the first time since October and looked to have a celebratory reunion. But then came the third period.

Horton, David Booth and Stephen Weiss had a say in Florida's first three goals, but the visiting Coyotes scored three in the third as they outshot the Cats 19-6 in that session. Florida couldn't slow down the red-hot Coyotes as Phoenix made it a game with two quick goals in the third period. Even still, it looked like the Panthers would survive, with Ilya Bryzgalov coming out of his net with 1:03 left.

Radim Vrbata brought the puck up to center ice and shot it from behind the red line. Unbelievably, the shot from behind the center stripe got past Vokoun and the game was tied with 59.7 seconds left.

Vokoun has been part of the league highlights for his spectacular play all season, but this goal will be replayed over and over. The small crowd then turned on Florida's MVP, mockingly cheering his next save before backing him again in overtime as he turned back a number of tough shots offered by the Coyotes.

“He stops 50 shots a night for us every freaking game,'' said captain Bryan McCabe. “On our ice, anything can happen. It was bouncing all night. It was bound to happen once this year. It was bouncing like a tennis ball. What can you do?''

Said Horton: “The ice wasn't very good. It was a bad bounce, a bad break.''

Both Booth (45 games) and Horton (17) have missed extensive time because of injury. On Thursday the trio showed the Panthers what might have been as Weiss and Booth scored with Weiss and Horton assisting on Cory Stillman's goal – the one that gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

The three – dubbed the 'Sunrise Express' -- each had two goals in the opening nine games before Booth was knocked out Oct. 24 in Philadelphia.

Horton2 “It was nice, it felt good out there,'' said Horton, who had two assists and scored Florida's lone shootout goal. “There's so much talent, you know you are going to get the puck and usually something good happens.''

Weiss got the Panthers going at the end of the first by scoring on a power play from the left circle with 6.7 seconds left for his 99th career goal. Booth made it 2-0 less than two minutes into the second by redirecting a McCabe shot from in front of the net. Later in the period, Cory Stillman backhanded a deflection with Weiss and Horton getting assists.

“We're a different team with Horton in the lineup, I think you can see that,'' said DeBoer. “We have a first line that takes some pressure off Stillman and Reinprecht.''


Things have decidedly stalled for Rostislav Olesz as he has gone 19 straight games without a single point.

Olesz1 DeBoer said earlier in the season that he holds Olesz to a higher standard because of his high draft status (seventh overall in 2004) and his contract (Olesz signed a six-year deal worth $3.25 million per prior to the 2008-09 season).

So with Olesz struggling, DeBoer is obviously not happy. Olesz started on Florida's fourth line Thursday.

“I know I would be frustrated and I hope he would be,'' he said Thursday morning. “You want to see that channeled on the ice and see him fight his way through that and not just surrender and be happy with the spot he's in.''

-- With the Coyotes just a few points away from the top seed in the Western Conference after finishing 25th in the league last season, DeBoer says the Panthers can not only learn from Phoenix's success, but have hope as well. The Panthers came into the day ranked 27th in the 30 team league.

“That's where we want to get to,'' he said. “It shows organizations like us that we're not that far away.''

-- University of Denver goaltender Marc Cheverie, a Panthers prospect, was named one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award -- college hockey's Heisman Trophy. Cheverie is 24-4-3 with a 1.94 GAA for the top-ranked Pioneers.


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I was upset (again) about another blown game, then I realized I want this team to lose every last game and maximize our chances of a top 2 pick.

Lose every game from Now on we need Taylor Hall as our Number 1 center and maybe then will be competitve but knowing this organization they will draft a defensemen or goaltender instead of Hall

Murphy's law only happens when you have the wrong attitude.

If you think something is going to go wrong it usually does.

Yes there are teams like the coyotes, the kings and the Avs that change their fortunes around, what they have that we don't are people in the front office that know what it takes to win.

It takes players that are willing to sacrafice for the team, it takes players hitting people.

We lead the league in blocked shots and shots allowed, why? because we don't hit anyone or make people work for their goals.

The first two goals allowed the players were in the slot and not touched because we want to block the shot.

Get d-men that are willing to hit, get wingers that can hit the net with their shot, get centers that can get the puck to the wingers

Get a goalie who doesn't have a history of giving up soft goals at the wrong time.

Get a GM that is willing to change the culture.

Get Scouts that are willing to find character players

Get a team President that knows hockey and will spend more on scouting and development then on marketing the team.

14 years and we have one 1 playoff game. in fact we have lost 12 of our last 13 playoff games.

Enough is Enough, the day the season ends the new owners need to clean out the front office and save the franchise

I read an interview with Lombardi from the Kings and how he said they had to get worse before getting better. Meaning, they had to dump the dead weight and UFAs, stockpile picks, draft well, then fill out the roster. They've had much more productive drafts (and trades) than us. Getting guys like Brown, Kopitar, Frolov, Johnson, etc, and look at them now. Good read and understanding for what a team needs to do to set up the franchise for years to come.

We've blown too many 1st round picks either through poor selections or poor development, and we don't invest enough in our scouting to get the late round gem. I think Weiss-Horton-Booth is something to build around, not tear up necessarily, but then we need a true 1st or 2nd line that can take the scoring burden off of them and bring balance to the team. I wish we had brought in a guy like Antropov, who's playing very well for Atlanta even without Kovy. A center who is big, can score, and can set up a scorer like Frolik or Horton.

Tear it up yes. Build around Weiss, Horton and Booth. NO!
Weiss and Horton have been here too loing and can be associated with losing and lazyness and lack heart and grit. What has Weiss done while Horton was out? Nothing.
He's hurt every year and at best belongs on everyone else's second line. At best.

I have no problem with Booth. I agree we do need a big and durable scoring center and a gritty veteran leader who knows how to win and can set an example for the youth. I have been preaching for this for years, but no one is listening.

On a good team, last night doesn't happen. Especially on home ice!

So I did some math and it looks like Mr. 85 has been paid about $753,000 to produce a whopping nothing! That guy makes more in one game than I do in an entire year at my day job!


The ghost of Jacques Martin lives on!
He set this team back more than anyone wants to admit!
Poor contracts, terrible free agent signings, poor trades, and one NON-trade have crippled this roster.

Only here in Florida do you fire the coach for not making the playoffs for three season, then give him the general managers job!

DeBoer made some great comments in the Sentinel today where he really admires what the 'Yotes did between seasons--and hopes to follow the same model.

Let's see how it pans out.


The model only works when you have the right people executing the model.

Thus, no front office changes no improvement on ice

I just love when people try to repeat things I said 5 years ago. It baffles my mind how they expect to be taken seriously.
The following comment has absolutely nothing to do with the above statement...

"I read an interview with Lombardi from the Kings and how he said they had to get worse before getting better. Meaning, they had to dump the dead weight and UFAs, stockpile picks, draft well, then fill out the roster. They've had much more productive drafts (and trades) than us. Getting guys like Brown, Kopitar, Frolov, Johnson, etc, and look at them now. Good read and understanding for what a team needs to do to set up the franchise for years to come."

There was a man who was TRYING to do this, but was bagged on by fans in south Florida. The team improved in the standings each year he was in control. But Florida fans did their usual thing and over reacted when a drunk Ozolinsh was traded and attempted to rebuild the team for after the lockout before it happened, unlike the people who replaced him that built the team for a mid to late 90's NHL while the opposition skated around the Cats. And when he was being interviewed for a possible return, again Cats fans bagged on him.

To surmise, the majority of Panther fans wouldn't have the patience or understanding for a true rebuild in this fashion. Thus making it an impossibility.

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