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Florida Panthers lose 5-3 in Ottawa ... Pete DeBoer: "We Weren't Ready to Play'' ... McCabe, Higgins, Santorelli Score 1st of Year

SENATORS 5, PANTHERS 3

OTTAWA – Panthers coach Pete DeBoer benched winger Michael Frolik on Thursday in a desperate attempt to get his sputtering offense going. During Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Senators at Scotiabank Place, DeBoer was likely thinking about others he would like to have sat down.

The Panthers were sloppy, slow and didn't have much going at all against an Ottawa team that started slow but has won two straight. By the time the Panthers got anything going, it was way too late. Struggling forwards Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli each scored their first goals of the season – after Ottawa held a 5-1 lead early in the third.

Florida has lost two straight and three of four.

“It was obviously much worse than the score indicated,'' DeBoer said. “We weren't ready to play. At the start of the game, their best players were better than ours. We lost all the key areas of the game: The faceoff circle, the puck battles on the board. You're not going to win in this league if you're not ready to compete. We lost all the races for the puck, all the battles for the puck. They were the hungrier team. There's no excuse for that.''

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in a first period during which they took all of five shots. Florida wasn't as fortunate in the second as Ottawa opened it up by scoring three times – including two goals within a span of 91 seconds. Ottawa then scored twice in the first four minutes of the third to put things out of reach.

“I was terrible and that's not how I want to play. We were a step behind all night,'' defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “We were sloppy with the puck, made bad decisions. Do that against that team and they're going to score.''

The listless Panthers were boxed into their end for much of the opening period before Ottawa's Nick Foligno was charged with goalie interference after taking out Tomas Vokoun.

Referee Stephen Walkom, who worked Tuesday's controversial game in Toronto in which an obvious goalie interference call wasn't made, was assigned Thursday's game as well. But he didn't make this call either as Tim Peel did the honors. Regardless, the Panthers took advantage as Bryan McCabe got his first goal of the season from outside the left circle.

“We were getting outplayed but had the lead thanks to Caber's nice shot,'' Higgins said. “We thought we would be able to turn it around in the second. We talked about coming out with a good start. We beat ourselves tonight. The turnovers in the neutral zone really set us back.''

Milan Michalek got the Sens on the board 5:20 into the second when Florida turned the puck over in the neutral zone and he buried a pretty pass from Chris Kelly. That marked the first shorthanded goal the Panthers had surrendered this season. 

Mike Fisher gave Ottawa its first lead at 13:18 of the second when he hammered a rebound that McCabe couldn't clear. Just 91 seconds later, Zack Smith charged in on Vokoun and snuck the puck past him shortside to make it 3-1.

FROLIK SITS

In just a matter of weeks, Frolik has gone from being on the Panthers top line to sitting in the press box. Frolik has no goals and two assists through the first seven games.

"We need more out of him,'' DeBoer said. "He has some character, some pride. I think he'll respond the right way. It's not all production. For me, the opportunities have slowed to a trickle. That's the symptom I'm concerned about and have to fix.''

Said Frolik: "Obviously it's hard. We lost and the coaches need to make some changes. They expect goals from me and I haven't scored. The season is long. Hopefully I'll be back in the lineup and be good for this team.''

-- The Panthers could be looking for a new AHL affiliate as the team president of the Rochester, N.Y., Americans said Thursday that their team is officially looking for a new deal – be it with Florida or another NHL team.

“As of today, Rochester has informed Dale Tallon, general manager of the Florida Panthers, that we would not be renewing/extending the existing affiliation with Florida,'' Rochester president Lewis Staats said in a statement.

“We are continuing to build and improve the Amerks from a business perspective and will be very diligent in our search for an NHL partner who we believe will help us achieve our goals both on and off the ice.”

Tallon declined to comment on the matter.

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