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Senators Cruise Past Panthers 5-2: Friends, Family Attend the Service ... Horton, Kitchen Clear Air

MarlinssparseSENATORS 5, PANTHERS 2

With Brian Elliott playing so well in net, Pascal Leclaire has been banished to the Senators bench as Ottawa charges into the postseason.

He didn't show much rust on Tuesday night. Of course, the way the Panthers are playing these days, they are veritable WD-40 for creaky goalies.

Leclaire got his first start since March 20 and the Panthers didn't offer up much of a challenge as the Senators rolled to a 5-2 win in front of perhaps the smallest actual crowd at BankAtlantic Center this season. The Panthers announced it at 11,790 – making it the fifth home game to be under the 12,000 mark.

And the Panthers aren't exactly making fans want to come to the rink as they crawl to the finish.

Florida has lost nine of 12 as Tomas Vokoun has lost his past seven starts. The Panthers sure haven't helped their goalies too much as they have scored two goals or fewer in seven straight games. The team set a franchise record with 14 such games earlier this season.

Ottawa, meanwhile, clinched the fifth overall seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs as captain Daniel Alfredsson played in his 1,000th game. The Senators will open against either New Jersey or defending champion Pittsburgh. The Panthers clean out their lockers on Monday.

“The good news is our young guys were our best players,'' said coach Pete DeBoer. “What's bad is we need the veterans to play better. I would expect some of these veterans to be playing for jobs too. They don't realize the situation they are in if they don't think they are playing for their jobs. For me, going through what we're going through and the season we're going through, we're evaluating everyone.''

The Panthers trailed by two in the second but Shawn Matthias got his seventh goal of the season at 8:41 of the period. But just 19 seconds later, Florida defenseman Keith Ballard tried to knock down a puck in front of his net and instead deflected it past Vokoun to make it 3-1. Chris Neil was credited with the goal that took whatever momentum the Panthers had away. “Hopefully,'' DeBoer lamented, “we get all of those out of our system this year.''

Ottawa scored twice within a 90 second span in the third to make it 5-1 before Kamil Kreps scored his fifth of the year.

“Everyone needs to be accountable for themselves,'' said Vokoun. “You have to prepare the same every day. It's tough around here. It's not fun, but everyone needs to be prepared.''

HORTON AND KITCHEN COOL LIKE THAT

Nathan Horton stormed off the ice Tuesday morning after getting into a verbal altercation with assistant coach Mike Kitchen. Horton apparently was shooting pucks into a drill Kitchen was running with the defensemen in the corner. When Kitchen objected, the two had heated words with DeBoer separating them.

After the argument was broken up, Horton continued screaming as he skated toward the tunnel leading to the locker room, repeatedly smashing his stick along the Panthers bench. Once the stick was obliterated, Horton flung the bashed up shaft of his stick clear across the ice.

While everyone kind of looked around in stunned silence, Rostislav Olesz – who watched the stick shaft come to rest at his feet -- picked it up and skated it to the bench where it was thrown away.

Horton was spotted rushing out of the locker room moments later as he left the arena.

“We had a heated discussion on the ice and that was it,'' Kitchen said after the game, noting that Horton came looking for him before Tuesday's game to talk it out. “It's nothing serious. It's nice to see a little emotion.”

Said DeBoer: "It's that time of year. If you didn't have people who were upset about the situation we were in, if the nerves weren't frayed, you'd worry about people's competitiveness.''

-- Nick Tarnasky finally got to fight Ottawa's Chris Neil on Tuesday, almost eight months after Neil fractured Tarnasky's orbital bone during the first preseason game of the year in Nova Scotia.

The injury cost Tarnasky almost half the season as he had complications from the hard hit. Tarnasky didn't return to the Panthers until Dec. 27.

Comments

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As it stands right now, the Panthers have a 10% chance of winning the lottery, 65% chance of picking 4th, and 25% chance of picking fifth (If one of the teams below them wins, that team would move up five spaces. The 25% is those teams' cumulative odds).

TB is above the Panthers with the third pick but only by season series (3-1 FLA). If Florida drops the two games against them in regulation, the season series would be tied and TB would have more points anyway. The goal differential is currently +6 FLA. Really the Panthers just need TB to get more points out of their three games than the Panthers get from theirs. The good news there is that Ottawa clinched 5th last night and might rest their players a bit in TB, giving them a chance to rest and TB a better chance to win at home.

If the Panthers move ahead of TB in the draft, add about 4% to their odds of picking first or third.

The Leafs pretty much clinched the second pick overall for Boston last night unless a team below them hits the lottery. They would have to get three points of four (@MON, @NYR) to get ahead of the Panthers and the Panthers would have to drop all three remaining games in regulation (NJD, @TB, TB). A tie does no good since the teams split the season series, all in regulation. The Laffs would have to overcome what is right now a -16 goal differential. The only good news is that the Leafs have no interest in losing out since their standing does them no good. In fact, the better they do, the worse Boston might pick so they have a smidgen of incentive to perform.

Boston is giddy to be in the playoffs and to pick no worse than third in June. Yay for TSN for the % numbers and ESPN for the tiebreak /standings. Analysis is all mine and probably flawed somewhere.

I would like to say Congrats to Anderson and the Avanlanche for making the playoffs! The kids were able to overachieve!

What can the Panthers learn from this?

Panthers core : Weiss, Horton, Booth should be split up. If they are the right core to build around, they would have made the playoffs by now with how spectacular the goalies have been over the last few years. They are not performing well together, somebody has to be the odd man out.

Panthers had two super goalies in the offseason - they made a mistake by going with the most expensive option instead of making a trade. The same mistake was made at the trade deadline. We can also point to the Bouwmeester trade last season. Sexton does not know how to pull the trigger on a necessary trade.

Picking quality role players who can bring it each night is a difference in the score. (aka guys like Tarnasky - who should have been playing the whole season).

Find guys who want to win with both your veteran pickups and drafted picks(there seems to be a big lack of that talent here in Florida). Picking up veteran guys that don't play the whole season usually is a mistake. AKA KOistenen

Spend more money on scouting and on management. Bring in the "right" hockey guys who are not there to collect paychecks. The owners need to find guys that know how to build a winning team. Sexton is not it.

P.S.:

"FIRE SEXTON AND MANAGEMENT" Just say no to Sexton!

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