OILERS 3, PANTHERS 2
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
EDMONTON, Alberta – The Panthers dominated the first two periods of Sunday's season opening game against the Oilers, but three fluke goals from Edmonton meant Florida rally to overtake the Oilers in the final 20 minutes.
There would be no comeback for the Panthers.
A disputed goal from Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff turned out to be the game-winner as the Oilers held off the Panthers 3-2 at Rexall Place. All five goals scored by the two teams came in a back-and-forth second period.
“We controlled the play pretty well and it should have been 1, 2-0 for us,'' said Marty Reasoner, who bagged two goals in his Florida debut. “We didn't capitalize on all the chances. That was a little frustrating, but I liked the way we played.''
Edmonton, the league's worst team in 2009-10, are now 2-0 after beating Florida and Calgary by a combined 7-2. The Panthers have lost three straight dating to the end of last season – one in which they finished in last place in their division for the first time in franchise history.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was incensed by Edmonton's third goal, a redirection off of Horcoff's skate that gave the Oilers a 3-1 lead midway through the second period.
Replays showed that Horcoff turned his foot as the puck struck him, moving the puck into the goal like a soccer player. The goal went under review at replay central in Toronto, but was allowed. The rule states that a player cannot make a deliberate kicking motion at a puck and put it through.
Tallon felt that's exactly what Horcoff did. So did coach Pete DeBoer.
“His foot moved forward,'' Tallon said.
“It looked like a kick to me,'' DeBoer said. “The interpretation of that rule, I don't understand. I don't know if you have to take a punter's kick or not. That's what the league gets paid to do, make those decisions. We have to live with them.''
Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun didn't have much to do for much of the first 40 minutes as Edmonton took just three shots in the opening period and four in the second. The first three shots the Oilers took in the second, however, turned into goals. And Vokoun couldn't be blamed for any of them.
“They had good fortune,'' Vokoun said. “It was a tough break for us. We played well, the effort was great.''
Edmonton grabbed a 1-0 lead when Dustin Penner camped out in front of the net, stuck out his stick and redirected a long shot from Tom Gilbert 1:33 into the period. Just three minutes later, Ryan Jones – with his back to Vokoun – reached out and knocked the puck out of the air and celebrated as it hit the back of the net. Vokoun, playing in front of the net, never had a shot at it.
Florida, trailing 2-0, kept shooting at Nikolai Khabibulin and got its first goal at the 6:11 mark of the second when Reasoner picked up his first goal as a member of the Panthers off a pass from fellow newcomer Steve Bernier.
Reasoner, centering a revamped fourth line featuring enforcer Darcy Hordichuk and Bernier, picked up his second with 2:09 remaining in the second period and he banged in a rebound off a shot from David Booth. That play was set up when Bernier made a slick pass from behind the boards to Booth. Khabibulin made the initial save but was out of position as the puck found Reasoner all by himself on the other side of the cage.
The five combined goals from the two teams in the second all but erased a pretty mundane opening period as Florida outshot the Oilers 11-3 and had a few good scoring chances.
“We should be rewarded for this and we weren't. That's the frustrating part,'' DeBoer said. “We played well and I'm not frustrated with our play or effort. I thought we were good.''
Chris Higgins, who signed on as a free agent this past summer, had two big chances but was snuffed out by Khabibulin on successive shots. Michael Frolik, playing on the top line with Booth and Stephen Weiss, came hard at the Edmonton goalie with 3:05 left in the first but was robbed.
Florida didn't have much success running its much-maligned power play. The Panthers, ranked 29th out of 30 teams in that category last year, failed to put together much of anything against the Oilers despite some great chances.
In the second, Florida had a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities but failed to put up even a handful of shots.
On the first two-man advantage, the Panthers lost the faceoff and watched the puck scoot back into the Florida zone. To make matters worse, Cory Stillman was charged with interference, wiping out the two skater advantage before it even had a chance to get rolling.
The Panthers had another such chance later in the period but failed to solve Khabibulin.
Florida, the last team to begin its 2010-11 season, get another chance to claim its first win of the season on Monday night as it visits Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks. It's going to be tough for Florida to keep up the rapid pace it showed Sunday, but Reasoner says
“Vancouver has a good veteran team, so it'll be a good challenge for us,'' Reasoner said. “If we can do what we did tonight, get some breaks, we're going to string some wins together.''
Panthers Lose Opener 3-2 to Edmonton, Outshoot Oilers 28-13 ... Reasoner Bags Two
OILERS 3, PANTHERS 2