ANAHEIM – The Panthers got goals from a variety of different sources in their 4-3 shootout win against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Radek Dvorak scored the first one on a penalty shot, then defenseman Dmitry Kulikov got his first of the season before Shawn Matthias scored his first in nine games.
Stephen Weiss won the game with a shootout goal. Technically, that goal doesn't count in the statistics. But it's better than nothing, and Weiss and two other players the Panthers desperately need to get going offensively hope it was a swing in the right direction.
“We just have to play hard and do what you're doing,'' said Weiss, who has just two goals in his past 11 games. “I have to try and play looser and not think about it. We have to score for us to be competitive. We have a tough time scoring as a team. We just have to keep after it.''
The Panthers have struggled to score again this season, with their 56 goals tied for 24th in the league with Minnesota. A big reason Florida hasn't scored much of late is the lack of production from three players the team is counting on to put pucks in the net.
David Booth, who led the team with 31 goals two seasons ago, hasn't scored in 11 straight games. Like Weiss, Michael Frolik has two goals that same time frame. In almost an act of desperation, coach Pete DeBoer put the three together on a line for the first time in weeks on Saturday. Later in the game, he switched them up again.
When the Panthers visit the Ducks on Wednesday, Weiss and Frolik will start off playing alongside Matthias.
“We have to get scoring from those guys,'' DeBoer said. “We have to add to the depth scoring with some front line scoring. I know David Booth is as frustrated as anyone. Same with Weiss and Frolik. The bottom line is they have to produce. And I think they will. When they do, we're going to be a tough team to beat.''
As he always does, Booth spend a long time after practice shooting pucks at the net. From the left side, from the right, from in front. During his 2008-09 season, Booth went 11 games without a goal. He then scored four in his next five.
“I'm just shooting at hard as I can right now. I'm not even aiming anymore,'' said Booth, who got his first career hat trick the last time Florida visited Anaheim's Honda Center on Nov. 9, 2008. “I just have to keep positive. But it's a lot easier to say. This is tough. You keep messing with things, second guessing. At the end of the day, you have to be happy your here and glad to have this opportunity. Then things will come.''
- - Frolik leads the Panthers with 13 points (four goals, nine assists). Coming into Tuesday's games, that ranks him tied for 121st among NHL scoring leaders. Booth is next on the team with 12 points (T-141) and Weiss has 10 points (T-194).
ALLEN WORKING OUT
Bryan Allen has missed three games with a broken bone in his foot, but he skated for a short time on Tuesday and was working out in regular shoes and not the walking boot he's been forced to wear.
Allen is expected to be out at least another week, although he grinned when asked if he would play during this trip. Allen added that he did have trouble skating because of the pain, but will try and skate again on Wednesday morning.
DeBoer brought the Panthers out to the west coast a few days early to help get acclimated to the time change. The team got in two quick-paced and spirited practices before Wednesday's game.
“The proof is in how we show up and play [Wednesday], that's the ultimate test,'' DeBoer said. “But I think it was a good plan. We had to shake something up. We've come out here and not traditionally started well on these trips. It was time to try something new.''
-- Practice was stopped momentarily when Bryan McCabe scored during a power play drill. Florida's league-worst power play is in a 0-for-37 slump although the team is beginning to laugh at their own misery.
WEDNESDAY: PANTHERS AT DUCKS
When/Where: 10 p.m.; Honda Center, Anaheim
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Panthers lead 10-8-3
The game: The Panthers have been playing much better on the road of late, winning three of their past four after winning just two of their first five away from Sunrise. Florida won the previous meeting against the Ducks in Anaheim, and has won four straight on road ice against Pacific Division teams. .-.-. Anaheim has won two straight including a 2-0 win against the rival Kings on Monday night.
ANAHEIM – Panthers coach Pete DeBoer put his charges through a rigorous workout Monday afternoon, skating the jet lag out of them.
Although most players came off the ice as soon as they were released, Steve Bernier couldn't get enough work and had to be told to get off or miss the bus going back to the hotel in scenic Newport Beach.
Bernier hasn't played in a game since he took the butt end of a stick to the face on Nov. 5. He had facial surgery the next day and only recently returned to practice. With Cory Stillman out for the time being with back spasms, Bernier will likely be back in the lineup Wednesday against the Ducks at Honda Center.
Bernier will wear a full cage on his mask.
“I've had five or six very good practices just making sure I'm back in shape,'' Bernier said Monday, sweat pouring off his face. “Today was a good practice. I feel good. Hopefully I'm 100 percent on Wednesday.''
Bernier was back working with Steven Reinprecht and Darcy Hordichuk on Monday meaning coach Pete DeBoer may want to put that trio together again.
Bernier only has one goal in his 14 games with the Panthers, but the things he does that do not show up on scoresheet is what's important to the team.
“I like him. He adds something to our lineup that we haven't had in a while and that's a big, strong guy up on the walls and in the battle areas,'' DeBoer said. “He's in front of the net and you need guys like that in the depth of your lineup. The numbers will come for him, although I'm not a numbers guy when it comes to a player like that. He's affective.''
The evidence to Bernier's injury is easy to spot only if you know what to look for. There is still darkness under his right eye and what looks to be a couple small scratches. That's all that is left. Bernier was lucky that his sight was not effected.
The injury occurred in the final seconds of Florida's win over the Wild at BankAtlantic Center. Bernier checked Brent Burns after he shot after the horn sounded, Burns turned and hit Bernier in the face with his right hand. Burns then punched Bernier with his left hand – while still holding his stick. The end of the stick was exposed and got Bernier right under the eye. He was transported to a local hospital after the game and Burns was suspended for two games.
Burns was very apologetic after the game and quickly reached out to Bernier. The two talked and all seems fine.
“Things like that happen, it's part of the game,'' Bernier said. “You just have to bounce back. He texted me the next day, told me he was extremely sorry. You know what? I know him and I know he's not that kind of player. I could do that. You get in a scrum, stuff happens. You have to live with it.''
-- With the power play struggling (five total goals and none since Nov. 10), DeBoer has brought center Stephen Weiss up to play on the point to try and create some chances. Weiss has good ice vision and is a strong passer so it seems like a good idea to see if he can get something going from the top of the offensive set.
“He's played the point before and is a natural guy to go back there because he can distribute the puck,'' DeBoer said. “He can shoot it, get it though. It's a different look. We're not married to it, but I liked the way the power play looked [Saturday]. It's just a matter of time.''
-- Stillman did not practice on Monday and probably will take Tuesday off as well. Stillman hurt his back Friday against the Rangers but played through it; he left Saturday's game in the third period because of the pain.
“Hoping on the plane sure doesn't help,'' DeBoer said. “He's a hard guy to keep out of the lineup. He usually finds a way to get into the lineup.''
TAMPA – A large contingent of Panthers players sat outside the Tampa Embassy Suites on Sunday morning, sipping on coffee and working feverishly on their smart phones.
Their bus was sitting on the side of the street, waiting to take them to the airport where they would board their charter and head west of the Mississippi for the second time this season.
The Panthers don't play in Anaheim until Wednesday night, but the team is getting a head start on their California adventure. Instead of flying west the day before the game as has been the case in the past, the Panthers are going to hold practices in Orange County on Monday and Tuesday before settling in to their usual game-day activities.
Florida will play three games – against the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes – in a span of four nights.
“I thought the last time we went west, we really felt the affects of going out the day before,'' coach Pete DeBoer said as he sat in the sun outside the hotel.
“We just got thumped. It doesn't translate into a guaranteed win or anything, but Dale Tallon was receptive to going out there early to give the team the best opportunity to pick up points. We have a couple of good practice days planned so that gives you a chance to get used to the time change.''
West coast trips have been a mixed bag for the Panthers in recent years. In Florida's first trip west this year, the Panthers went 1-2 with a win in Calgary and losses in Edmonton and Vancouver. In the lone trip to the Golden State last year, the Panthers upset San Jose.
In 2008-09, Florida lost two of three – but the win in Anaheim brought David Booth his first hat trick.
Since the lockout, the Panthers have won four of 11 games against Pacific Division teams on their ice – with all of those wins coming in their past four games. Florida, which has won three of its past four road games after Saturday's 4-3 shootout win against the Lightning, would like to continue that run.
“All three of these teams are good teams,'' DeBoer said. “Anaheim's record doesn't indicate how good they are. It wasn't too long ago that they were the Stanley Cup champions. Los Angeles is as good as any team I've seen and Phoenix is right where they finished where they did last year. It's a good test for us.''
During the shootout period Saturday there was a bit of confusion on the second Tampa Bay shot. Martin St. Louis was introduced and skated out to center ice, only to be called back by the referee because Lightning coach Guy Boucher had put Sean Bergenheim down on his lineup card as the second shooter.
St. Louis, who has five goals in 25 shootout attempts, ended up shooting fourth but couldn't answer Stephen Weiss' goal that turned out to be the winner. Bergenheim was blocked out by Tomas Vokoun as were Tampa's other three shooters. Bergenheim is a career 0-for-4 in shootouts.
-- The Panthers are now 21-37 all-time in the shootout which continues to be the lowest winning percentage in the league since the shootout was instituted in 2005. Weiss is 5-for-25, with four of those goals being game-deciding ones. Tomas Vokoun improved to 19-25 with a save rate of 66 percent.
-- With Jason Garrison back in the lineup, the Panthers sent defenseman Joe Callahan back to their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Florida kept Keaton Ellerby and Bill Thomas. DeBoer said Steve Bernier is probable for Wednesday's game in Anaheim. Bernier has been out since undergoing facial surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone suffered in a fight with Minnesota's Brent Burns on Nov. 5.
-- Winger Cory Stillman left Saturday's game with back spasms in the third period. His status is unknown for Wednesday.
-- With the Miami Hurricanes firing Randy Shannon on Saturday, DeBoer is now tied for second among South Florida major coaches in terms of seniority despite only being in his third year leading the Panthers.
DeBoer, Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Tony Sparano (Dolphins) are all in their third seasons.
FIU football coach Mario Cristobal, in his fourth season with the Golden Panthers, is now the area's most tenured coach.
“Continuity and stability is something perhaps this team hasn't had in a while,'' DeBoer said. “Hopefully we can keep that going.''
-- DeBoer on giving Tampa Bay's dangerous power play seven opportunities on Saturday: “It's like hanging a T-bone in front of a lion. We were just asking for trouble.''
The Lightning, leading the league in power play goals, went 1-for-7 against the Panthers.
PANTHERS 4, LIGHTNING 3 (SO)
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
TAMPA – Even though the Panthers didn't solve all their problems on Saturday night, coach Pete DeBoer's postgame smile was only eclipsed by the jovial look on general manager Dale Tallon's face.
“Let's get some music going in this place,'' Tallon shouted as he bounded into the visitors locker room, slapping every back he encountered.
When a team snaps its longest losing streak of the season, and does so in dramatic fashion, people can get a little giddy.
“We needed that a little more than they did,'' DeBoer said after Florida's 4-3 shootout win against the Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.
“We played some tight games this week and found a way to lose them. Good for us. We showed some resiliency, hung around and our goalie was really good. It was a big two points for us mentally.''
Said Stephen Weiss, who got the shootout winner: “It was a great game, we competed all night. We got one in on them in the shootout and the two points. It was a big win for us.''
Some of Florida's biggest problems of late popped up again Saturday as the power play still hasn't scored in what seems like three months and their top offensive threats were about to be held off the scorecard until Weiss beat Dan Ellis in the fourth round of the shootout.
Weiss' goal was the only one to go through by either team.
Yet plenty did go right against the rival Lightning. Radek Dvorak's penalty shot goal in the second helped spark a three-goal comeback. Florida's win was its first when trailing going into the third period in eight such situations. It was also the Panthers first foray into overtime this season.
For a while, it looked like the Panthers would go 22 games without the extra session.
The Panthers trailed 2-0 before Dvorak scored on a penalty shot after being pulled down on his way to the net. Dvorak's goal came with less than eight minutes left in the second but seemed to give the downtrodden Panthers quite the lift.
“We weren't doing much in the second up until then,'' DeBoer said. “They were controlling things.''
The Panthers scored three unanswered goals for the first time since last Saturday's 4-1 win on Long Island when Florida got all of its goals on seven shots in the second period.
Florida tied the score early in the third when Dmitry Kulikov got his first goal of the season by getting a pass in the right circle, spinning and whipping a shot of the night past Dan Ellis. Just over five minutes later, the Panthers had their first lead of the night courtesy of Shawn Matthias as he knocked a Mike Santorelli delivery between his legs and past Ellis for Florida's third goal.
“We found a way to win tonight and that's the most important part,'' Matthias said. “We just have to keep the ball rolling. We've played well, but we were down about the last ones. But we forgot about them and kept our foot on the gas the whole time. It paid off.''
The Panthers power play woes have been well documented this season, but how bad is it really? Not good.
-- Florida has a league-low five power play goals this season. Tampa Bay winger Steven Stamkos has 10 and teammate Ryan Malone has four. The Lightning's 26 power play goals (it got one against the Panthers on Saturday) is tops in the NHL.
-- The Panthers record for fewest power play goals in a season is 29, set in 1994-95 – the team's second season. But that is misleading because it was a strike-shortened season. Those Panthers scored 0.6 power play goals a game. This one is averaging 0.2 per game.
That means this Florida team is on pace to set the franchise record for fewest power play goals (19) despite playing the full 82 game schedule.
-- In a full 82 game schedule, the Panthers previous low for power play goals is 44 – set last season.
RANGERS 3, PANTHERS 0
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The Panthers have a few rules.
Don't walk on the carpeted logo in the middle of the dressing room. Players are fined if their jersey touches the floor.
'Don't talk about the power play' could be next.
Yes, the Panthers again failed to score a goal with a man advantage on Friday night and it cost them -- again -- as they didn't convert on five power play chances in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers in front of a lively 17,013 at BankAtlantic Center.
Florida went 0-3 during its holiday homestand after starting the season 5-2-0 in Sunrise.
“You best players have to be your best players,'' coach Pete DeBoer said, “and in all three games, we had trouble scoring. Our best players didn't get on the board and we were out-goaltended in all three. It's tough to win games when that happens.''
Not only have the Panthers not scored a power play goal since Nov. 10, their opponents are now scoring when Florida has been on the advantage. Brandon Prust's goal late in the third was the second time in as many games an opponent has scored shorthanded on the Panthers. Florida, prior to Wednesday's game against the Bruins, had given up just one shorthanded goal this season.
The Panthers, meanwhile, haven't scored in 33 consecutive power play chances.
With the Sawgrass Mills packed to the gills across the street, the Panthers had a Black Friday of their own as Rangers backstop Henrik Lundqvist had his way with Florida once more. Lundqvist has beaten the Panthers in 11 of his 17 starts against them, earning his fourth shutout against the Cats.
In those 17 games, Lundqvist has given up just 30 goals (1.76 per) and has made saves on 494 of 524 shots (94 percent).
The Panthers, who have lost three straight for the first time this season, came at Lundqvist hard throughout the game and took 21 more shots (40-19) than the Rangers.
Only Lundqvist was on – and his teammates took advantage of their scoring opportunities.
“He's a top three goalie in the league,'' said Chris Higgins, who played with Lundqvist last season. “One thing I respected was seeing him in practice every day. It's not a shock he played that well; I wish he was off his game a little though.''
Moments after the Panthers failed to score on a four-minute Sean Avery penalty -- Dmitry Kulikov's hooking penalty in the middle sure didn't help -- the Rangers pounced as Derek Stepan buried a rebound that Scott Clemmensen failed to secure.
The Panthers trailed 1-0 from that point in the opening period until early in the third when the Rangers power play unit showed their hosts how it's done. With 13 seconds left in a Stephen Weiss holding penalty, Erik Christensen fed Ryan Callahan in the slot. Callahan's nifty backhanded deflection beat Clemmensen to give the Rangers some breathing room against the offensively-challenged Panthers.
Florida hasn't been good to bouncing back from late deficits this season and dropped to 0-7 when trailing going into the third period.
Lundqvist did have some work to do against the Panthers as he stopped a point-blank shot from Mike Santorelli in the second and also stoned Shawn Matthias. In the third, it appeared the Panthers had cut the deficit to one, only Weiss knocked down the puck during a scrum in front of the net and was charged with a hand pass. Higgins, a New York native, battled to knock the loose puck past Lundqvist – but Weiss' glove work negated Higgins' perseverance.
“Usually they wave those off when it hits the other guy [Lundqvist], but they said he needed full control,'' Higgins said. “It doesn't seem like we get too many calls to begin with. This week is no exception.''
Winger Bill Thomas got to experience the fun of Thanksgiving travel twice as he was sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday – only to be recalled on Friday.
Thomas was brought back as a precaution as DeBoer said the Panthers had some banged-up forwards who might need a rest either on Friday or Saturday. Thomas was not used in Friday's game.
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
TV/Radio: No local TV; WQAM-560
The series: Panthers lead 50-33-10
The game: Tampa Bay had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 6-0 loss at Washington on Friday. The Lightning are 4-2-0 in the second game of a back-to-back set. .-.-. The Panthers, who won the previous meeting 6-0 against Tampa in Sunrise on Oct. 16, are 0-4 in the second game of a two-game set. The Panthers played host to the Rangers on Friday. .-.-. Steven Stamkos, who has 21 goals in 23 games this season, has six goals in 12 games against Florida.
Enjoy the day.
Here is my notebook from this morning's practice in Coral Springs. Wanted to get it done early so I could go and hang out with the family.
See you all tomorrow. If I can get off the couch, that is.
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
When Pete DeBoer was asked earlier in the week what he was thankful for as far as his team went, the Panthers coach responded that even though he would have liked more wins, he was pleased in how his team continues to put forth a solid effort and battles hard each night.
That was on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, after another close loss, the team's players closed the doors to their locker room and held a meeting to flesh out why the team is playing the best teams in the league tight – only coming away with nothing but moral victories.
“The disappointing thing is we've been playing good games against good teams and not getting the wins,'' Radek Dvorak said after Thursday's practice in Coral Springs. “We have to play the same game for 60 minutes. I like our game, I like this team. Everyone plays hard, plays for each other. But we have to find a way to get a full 60 minutes; if there's a bad play, work through it.''
Said DeBoer: “It was great initiative on their part, but it's what comes out of it that's the important part. Our best players haven't hit their stride yet. We need that to happen. We need goals out of those guys. At the start of the third period, we should have gotten more goals.''
DeBoer said on Thursday that he was pleased his players took ownership of the problem, but talk isn't going to fix things. The Panthers were tied with Pittsburgh in the third period on Monday but lost in regulation 3-2; Wednesday, Florida led Boston going into the third but lost 3-1.
All of Florida's losses have come in regulation – the Panthers are the league's only team not to go into overtime this season – meaning they aren't even getting the free point for overtime or shootout losses.
The Panthers go into Friday's game against the Rangers with 18 points in 20 games – putting them 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.
“We have to put the past two games behind us and realize what we did well and what we didn't,'' DeBoer said. “We've shown we can play with a team like Boston. In the two games, we were as good or better for probably five of the six periods. But handling adversity and having composure at the right times of games is something we have to be better at. It's bit us.''
Steve Bernier was back on the ice Thursday, less than two weeks after he suffered a fractured orbital bone at the end of Florida's win over Minnesota.
Bernier needed surgery after being struck in the face by the butt end of Brent Burns stick as time expired. Burns and Bernier have spoken and everything seems to be OK between them. On Thursday, Bernier wore a full cage as he went through drills and took some contact.
“We'll work him into shape,'' DeBoer said. “He won't play this weekend, but we may see him on the California trip.''
-- Bryan Allen has a broken bone in his foot and should be out a couple of weeks at the least. But DeBoer says there really is no timetable when it comes to Allen.
“He's a warrior,'' DeBoer said. “Whatever the doctor says, he either cuts in half or totally ignores. It's tough to say how long he'll be out. The doctors say two to four weeks. But knowing him, we'll see.''
-- Jason Garrison, who missed Wednesday's game with a groin strain, practiced on Thursday and is probable for Friday's game.
-- Bill Thomas played in two games as Steven Reinprecht was out; with Reinprecht back, Thomas was returned to the Panthers' AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
FRIDAY: RANGERS AT PANTHERS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Rangers lead 36-27-6
The game: This is the final game of the Panthers three-game homestand with Florida going 0-2 so far. The Panthers have lost three of their past four games and are now two games under .500. .-.-. The up-and-down Rangers are coming off a 3-2 loss in Tampa on Wednesday night. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 10-5-1 against the Panthers all-time with a 1.89 GAA. He's made 93 percent of his saves against the Panthers and has shut them out three times in his career.
BRUINS 3, PANTHERS 1
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
When the game was over, after the Panthers had blown their first third period lead of the season, the doors were closed and the players vented.
Two straight losses – including Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to the visiting Bruins – was enough to make some players want to vent. For 15 minutes, one player after another spoke.
“It seems that it's a mental approach. I'm new here, but the team hasn't made the playoffs in a long time and one way to do that is to win the games you lead going into the third,'' winger Chris Higgins said. “You have to have that mental toughness, the commitment to defense the entire game. We're done with the whole staying positive thing. At some point we have to go into action. We have to make sure the commitment to the team shows in your play.''
Florida led 1-0 going into the third, but Boston stormed back with two quick goals to start the period.
Florida, which has lost both games to the Bruins in a span of a week, had been 8-0 when leading after the second period. Boston improves to 2-6-2 when trailing going into the third.
Before the Bruins third period surge, the Panthers had done a good job at playing a defensive-first game and limiting Boston's chances.
Nathan Horton, who was traded away by the Panthers during the summer and playing his first game in Sunrise since the deal, leads the Bruins in scoring but only had one shot in the opening 40. Milan Lucic had three goals in Boston's 4-0 win over Florida last Thursday, but he didn't have many opportunities against the Panthers either.
Florida was playing with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Steven Reinprecht goal that came 2:14 into the second period when he knocked a puck past Tim Thomas (11-1-1). The Panthers locked down defensively and went into the second break with a lead.
It wouldn't hold up. Florida once again failed to take advantage of its power play chances. Lucic took a penalty with a minute left in the second. The Panthers came out for the third with a minute left on that penalty but watched the Bruins win the opening face-off and charge down the ice. Tomas Vokoun misplayed the puck behind the net and Brad Marchand charged in and scored the shorthanded goal just eight seconds into the period.
With the score tied, the Bruins smelled chum in the water and kept up the offensive attack. Just over two minutes after Marchand's goal, Boston's Mark Recchi was able to score in traffic to give the Bruins their first – and final – lead of the night.
“We're 20 games in and we have to be better,'' David Booth said. “Yeah, we're staying close, but we have to win. We have to change the mentality around here. We needed to bounce back after that first goal and we didn't. We have to start bearing down, win these games.''
Late in the game, Michal Repik was called for high sticking. Just 14 seconds later, Radek Dvorak dumped a puck in the stands and was also sent to the box. The Bruins, with a lengthy two-man advantage didn't waste much time as Recchi scored from the right side of the net for his second of the night.
-- The Panthers power play went 0-for-2 on Wednesday and is now scoreless in its past 28 chances. Florida, which is last in the league in power play percentage (7.2 percent) and goals (five), hasn't scored with a man advantage since Nov. 10.
NEW OLD GUYS
Because of injuries to defensemen Bryan Allen and Jason Garrison, the Panthers had to raid their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., once more. Allen is out for at least a week with a broken foot; Garrison's bothersome groin is ailing him.
The Panthers recalled Keaton Ellerby for the third time; Joe Callahan was also brought up. Callahan, who grew up rooting for the Bruins on the southside of Boston, got to play his childhood team for the first time in his career. Callahan played in 19 NHL games with the Islanders and San Jose over the previous two seasons.
-- Steven Reinprecht (groin) returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a groin injury. Bill Thomas was a healthy scratch.
Horton and Gregory Campbell had most of Tuesday to visit old haunts in South Florida as the Bruins arrived in town on Monday and held a practice Tuesday afternoon in Sunrise. Horton went and visited his house in western Broward County before hitting up the mall. Both players had trouble finding the visiting locker room as they had spent their entire career with the Panthers before being traded in June.
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was also traded by the Panthers, but that came late in his first season with the team in March.
“It's always nice to be back. This is a great place,'' Horton said. “I was here a long time. This is the place I played most of my career, but I don't think [emotions] will be too bad. I don't know exactly where to go around here, so I'm just following the other guys.''
Quick notes from this morning's skate:
First, Bryan Allen has a broken foot and is out at least a week. Jason Garrison's troubling groin has flared up again and he's out for the time being.
Keaton Ellerby and Joe Callahan have been recalled from Rochester.
-- Steven Reinprecht should be back in the lineup tonight. It looks like Darcy Hordichuk is playing as well with Bill Thomas being the odd man out.
-- Tomas Vokoun between the pipes versus Tim Thomas.
Nathan Horton was mobbed after Wednesday's morning skate, taking on those of us from the local media (that's my white recorder in the front) as well as the Boston media (that's Quebec Jack to the right).
I know no one here wants to hear any of this, but Horton looks like a different player in Boston -- on and off the ice.
He appears to be in a good spot. He's relaxed, he's smiling all the time. He's having fun playing hockey. I don't know if that's always been the case.
But, that said, it was probably time he moved on. He didn't want to be here anymore and the Panthers had no problem filling his request. But the Panthers sure would love to have him on the power play tonight, no?
-- Horton admitted he didn't know where the visiting locker room was in Sunrise. "I just followed all the other guys,'' he said.
-- Gregory Campbell says it was a little emotional playing against his old pals last week and that he loved coming back to South Florida. Like Horton, he considers it "like home.''
Campbell said he was just here as late as August, so "not much has changed around here.''
Didn't have the heart to tell him that we now have three holiday-themed radio stations in the Miami market since he rolled north.
There are more than a few people feeling the pain of the Panthers power play woes these days.
Not only do coaches Pete DeBoer and Jim Hulton have to answer questions about the power play's inability to score on a daily basis, everyone else on the team does too.
After Florida went 0-for-5 in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Monday, the Panthers power play statistically sunk even more (even though, as DeBoer pointed out Tuesday, it couldn't go any lower in the standings since it was already in last).
The Panthers have gone scoreless on their past 26 power play chances and haven't netted a power play goal since Nov.10.
David Booth is one of those players who has failed to put in a goal with the Panthers holding a man advantage, but his goal-scoring problems have bled over to even-strength situations
Booth missed all but 28 games last season because of a pair of major concussions. He came back strong this preseason and looked to regain his form of two seasons ago when he broke out and led
the team with 31 goals.
Power play or not, Booth hasn't been able to find a goal since Nov.5 against Carolina -- that's eight straight goal-less games for a player who prides himself on his hard work and getting into position to beat a goalie.
"You never want to be too negative, but chances don't win you games, putting the puck in the net does,'' said Booth, who led the Panthers with five goals in the first 11 games.
"Eventually it will come. You can't get too low when you're not scoring same as you can't get too high when you are. Things will start going in. I'm going to keep doing what I always do.''
Lately, nothing Booth has done is working. He's missed open nets, fired wide and high. Last week against Boston, Booth tied a franchise record with 14 shots on goal -- most in the league
since 2006. Yet the Panthers -- and Booth -- were shutout.
Booth has taken a team-high 81 shots this season -- no other teammate has hit 50 yet and his total accounts for 13 percent of all of Florida's shots.
Since his last goal, Booth has taken 37 shots.
"For him, like our power play, he just has to stick with it,'' DeBoer said. "You know it's going to come, he's going to get his goals. If he's getting 14 shots -- or even six, seven -- the goals are going to come.
"It's not necessarily the end result, but the process. He's doing the right things, he just have to keep with it.''
HUB OF HOCKEY
Forget Toronto, Montreal or the New York Metropolitan area. On Tuesday, Broward County was the epicenter of the NHL as three teams took up residence within a few miles of one another.
As the Panthers worked out at their training facility in Coral Springs, the Penguins were working out a few miles down the road at BankAtlantic Center.
Once they were done (the Pens packed up and flew to Buffalo), the Bruins took over the Sunrise ice.
-- Rostislav Olesz has a broken middle finger although it was determined he wouldn't need pins. That said, DeBoer said the fracture is in a bad place and Olesz is a few weeks away from being able to put on a glove.
-- Defensemen Jason Garrison and Bryan Allen missed Tuesday's practice, meaning Keaton Ellerby could be on his way back from the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Winger Steven Reinprecht (groin) practiced.
-- Byron Bitz (sports hernia) "has had good days and setbacks,'' DeBoer said. "He's still a ways out.''
WEDNESDAY: BRUINS AT PANTHERS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Panthers lead 30-28-6 The game: Wednesday marks the first return of former Panthers Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell and Dennis Seidenberg since they were traded away. Seidenberg left the Panthers near the end of last season; Horton and Campbell were shipped off in the summer. .-.-. The Bruins beat the Panthers 4-0 in Boston on Thursday as Milan Lucic recorded a hat trick. Horton assisted on all three goals. Boston won both meetings in Sunrise last year and has won five of six at Florida.
PENGUINS 3, PANTHERS 2
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
Rare has been the night when the Panthers penalty kill has been a concern this season. And, despite having plenty of firepower, the Pittsburgh Penguins power play hasn't been very productive.
That wasn't the case Monday night, however, as the Penguins scored two first period goals while holding a man advantage before adding an even-strength goal from Chris Conner with 7:04 remaining as Pittsburgh topped the Panthers 3-2 in front of an announced 16,543 at BankAtlantic Center.
Florida's power play was blacked out once more. The Panthers went 0-for-5 on Monday and are now scoreless in their past 26 opportunities. Not surprisingly, Florida has the lowest power play percentage in the league and the fewest such goals. The Panthers haven't scored on the power play since Nov. 10.
“Our power play cost us a game again,'' an angry Bryan McCabe said. “They get two, we get zero. We had a lot of opportunities. It has to win us a game at some point. Right now it's costing us games.''
Coming into the game, Florida had only surrendered two power play goals in two previous games as its penalty kill was ranked sixth in the league. Conversely, Pittsburgh had only scored a pair of power play goals in two other games and hadn't done so since Oct. 18.
“We were down 2-0, but sometimes people make good plays and obviously you want to kill those penalties off but that won't be the case every night,'' said goalie Tomas Vokoun, who made 23 saves. “It's hard to win every night 5-on-5. You need power play goals and we need to find a way to find them. No team in the league can win on a consistent basis without it.''
The Penguins looked to run away with the night early on after Kris Letang beat Tomas Vokoun just five seconds into Stephen Weiss' penalty for colliding with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 4:07 into the game.
On Pittsburgh's second power play chance, Sidney Crosby – who is in a tight race for the scoring lead with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos – dipped and dodged his way through the Panthers defense and scored with eight seconds remaining in Marty Reasoner's hooking penalty.
The Panthers didn't commit another penalty the rest of the night. Trailing 2-0 against the Penguins is not where any team wants to be, yet the Panthers persevered.
With 35 seconds left in the opening period, defenseman Jason Garrison fired a shot at Fleury and the puck bounded toward Cory Stillman in front of the net. The veteran winger put up his stick and deflected it – picture a baseball player laying down a bunt – past Fleury. After a review (to make sure Stillman didn't use his hand to move the puck along) it was determined to be a good goal and the Panthers went into the break with a little momentum by cutting their deficit to one.
Florida tied the score at the 6:47 mark of the second when McCabe came in hard through the slot and picked the pocket of Pittsburgh's Mark Letestu and came out firing, putting the puck to the back of the net.
Conner got his first goal of the season as he put a puck through Vokoun's legs to give Pittsburgh the final lead of the night. Florida is now 1-4 in games in which it was tied going into the third; the Penguins are 6-2-1 in such scenarios.
“They're a great team. They were on a roll, they were rested,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “The first period was the story of the game. We looked like we had just come off a road trip and they jumped on us. In the second and third, we played the way we wanted to and scratched back. It just wasn't enough.''
BERNIER IN SUNRISE
Winger Steve Bernier hasn't been back to the BankAtlantic Center since he suffered a fractured orbital bone at the end of Florida's 2-1 win over Minnesota on Nov. 12.
Bernier said he will be checked out this week and could be back in the lineup soon if everything is healing properly. Bernier needed surgery after getting hit by the butt end of Minnesota's Brett Burns' stick during a fight after time has expired.
-- Radek Dvorak was honored before Monday's game for becoming the franchise leader in games played. Dvorak played in his 574th game as a member of the Panthers on Nov. 12.
General manager Dale Tallon went to center ice and presented him with a framed collage including the score sheet from his first game with Florida as a rookie in 1995 and the lineup sheet from the game against Minnesota.
-- A number of players (Dvorak, Byron Bitz and Dmitry Kulikov) will be at the Cooperative Feeding Program in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. The players will help stock the pantries, assist in the kitchen and and hand out turkeys and food boxes to families.
Now, they are offering season ticket plans for a dollar.
It could be the dollar you were going to use on the Sawgrass Expressway or to buy a breakfast sandwich at Burger King.
One buck. That's 100 pennies. Four quarters. Two quarters and five dimes. We have ways of making change you probably have never even thought of.
Well, truth is, the Panthers are marketing $1 tickets but that's only for a down payment on a regular (yet reduced) ticket plan.
It's like layaway for season tickets. You basically give the team all your information, they call you and if you like the deal, they'll give you the tickets and bill ya later.
(See the add above? It says $1 NOW.)
I wish I had a buck to buy some tickets but I used all my singles buying cans of soda in the Islanders press box the other night. It was good Diet Pepsi though. Totally worth it.
But now I'm stuck if I want to drive on the Sawgrass. At least BK takes credit cards.
-- A number of players (Radek Dvorak, Byron Bitz and Dmitry Kulikov) will be at the Cooperative Feeding Program in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday donating food to underprivileged families for Thanksgiving. The players will help stock the pantries, assist in the kitchen and and hand out turkeys and food boxes to families.
This is a great cause that Mike Van Ryn used to take so much pride in when he was here. Good to see his old mates carrying on the tradition of doing something nice in our community.
Enjoy your day folks.
See you on Monday from The Billboard at Tarp City.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Panthers haven't always been relevant around the holidays, their poor starts to the season usually undermining mid to late-season success. After Florida took the Islanders 4-1 on Saturday, however, the Panthers sit at .500, splitting their first 18 games.
The Panthers haven't been at the break-even mark at this time of a season since 2000.
Now, after winning two of their past three away from Sunrise, the Panthers come home for an important three-game Thanksgiving week homestand. Things won't come easy for a Florida team which has had to work for just about every goal and every win so far.
Three of the top teams in the Eastern Conference are coming south this week, starting with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. The Panthers have played some of their best hockey of the season at home, winning five of seven. They're going to need to continue that trend.
“We've been playing well at home and we have to keep doing that,'' defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “It's going to be a tough stretch. We played really well against Boston the other night although the score didn't show that. If we keep playing like that, we'll give those guys a run.''
DeBoer has spoken about Florida's need to win two out of three per week and the Panthers would definitely take four of six points during this homestand and move on. After playing these games, the Panthers embark on a tough four game road stretch that takes them from Tampa to Southern California and Arizona.
“We haven't had an easy schedule, but we've managed to pick up points and hang around in games,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “It'll be nice to be at home, but the opponents don't get any easier.
Assistant general manager Mike Santos said late Saturday night that he wasn't planning on calling up another player from the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Stephen Weiss left Saturday's game after aggravating an ankle injury that's been bugging him for weeks. DeBoer was seen talking to a Panthers staffer making a request that a player be brought up “just in case.''
Santos said Weiss' injury isn't serious and that had the Panthers not led the Islanders 4-1 at the time, Weiss would have returned. Weiss' goal gave Florida its 4-1 lead midway through the period.
-- Winger Michal Repik took a puck off the right ankle during the first period and limped off the ice. Repik missed a few shifts but returned in the second. He said after the game that there wasn't much bruising and he wasn't concerned about it.
-- It had been more than a year since Bill Thomas played in an NHL game before he played 15 shifts for the Panthers on Saturday.
Thomas was recalled from Rochester late Friday night after it became apparent Steven Reinprecht (groin) wouldn't be able to play. The Panthers are also without Rostislav Olesz (broken middle finger) for an undetermined amount of time.
Thomas' timing is pretty good. The 27-year-old is a native of Pittsburgh and he played 16 games for the hometown Penguins in 2008-09. The Penguins visit Sunrise on Monday and with all the banged up players, Thomas is likely to be back in the lineup. Prior to Saturday, Thomas had not played in an NHL game since Feb. 25, 2009 – also, against the Islanders.
“I'm very excited to be here and it was good news to get back in the league,'' Thomas said. “I just want to make the most of my opportunity. I'm filling in for someone who is injured, so I just want to do what they want me to do.''
(Like that picture of Thomas? Notice the Del Taco sign behind him? I did. I love Del Taco. Great hot sauce. Did you know they give you french fries with your tacos there? Weird, right? It may be a little over the top, but they are like bowling alley fries so even if you don't want them, you will have a couple and then toss the rest ((I like throwing them out the window so birds can have them.)) We will be in Del Taco country in about a week. I am looking forward to it. And yes, I went looking for a picture to prove my point about the fries. And I've never had the Del Taco burger. I'm not that brave.)
MONDAY: PENGUINS AT PANTHERS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Penguins lead 31-30-4
The game: The Panthers won two of their past three road games heading in and have won four of six. Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who will start Monday, is a big reason why. In each of those four wins, Vokoun has given up just one goal. .-.-. Pittsburgh won three of four games against the Panthers and have won eight of 12 over the past three seasons. The Penguins have won two straight and four of five – including a 5-4 shootout win against visiting Carolina on Friday night. Sidney Crosby is second in the league in goals (14) and points (33).
PANTHERS 4, ISLANDERS 1
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Panthers had been shutout for five straight periods heading into the second on Saturday night, but if they were concerned, they sure didn't show it.
The Panthers were, after all, playing the hapless Islanders.
Florida turned a one-goal deficit into a three-goal lead in a second period that was Florida's best 10 minute showing of the season. The Panthers scored four goals within a span of eight minutes to hand the Islanders their 12th straight loss as Florida ended its road trip on a high note with a 4-1 victory at Nassau Veterans Coliseum.
The Panthers kick off a three-game Thanksgiving week homestand Monday against Pittsburgh with wins in four of their past six. The Panthers went 2-2-0 on the road trip.
“It's a solid win: Three games in four nights at the end of a road trip and coming off an emotional game in Boston,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “The table was set for them with a new coach and a couple days off. It could have been a different story but we took care of business and got the win. It wasn't textbook but it was an important two points.''
The Islanders took a rare lead in the first period when Bryan McCabe sent a weak clearing pass from behind the net right onto the stick of Matt Moulson who teed it up and sent the puck flying past Tomas Vokoun. New York hadn't led in a game since Nov. 11 against the Sharks – an eventual 2-1 loss that at least got the Islanders their only point in this horrific losing streak.
Florida could have been down two or three goals in the first had John Tavares not missed an open net or had defenseman Dennis Wideman not swept away the puck off a Moulson shot with Vokoun out of position.
“Vokoun played very well, stood on his head and made saves when we needed them,'' Wideman said. “They are going through a little slide, but that's a team that's going to win some games. They keep playing like that, the bounces will go their way. They had a lot of chances, made it hard on us early.''
With only a one goal deficit to climb back from, Florida came out firing in the second. Mike Santorelli put the Panthers on the board when he scored off a pass from Shawn Matthias, with Marty Reasoner scoring 39 seconds later off a nice feed from local favorite Chris Higgins.
Santorelli later scored his second of the night for the first time in his career with Stephen Weiss finishing things off at 10:21 of the second. Santorelli now has four goals in the past five games.
“It was the first two goal game for me so that was nice. I'm just happy with the win,'' Santorelli said. “We put 40 shots on Boston and it was nice to see them go in. We stuck to it. They came out hard but we weathered it. Good win.''
The Panthers franchise record for goals in a period is six set in 2000, but the Panthers never really challenged that mark despite more chances. The power play, which has to be a big concern to the Panthers, was shutout once more on Saturday. Florida had an extended two-man advantage in the third yet failed to score and went 0-for-6 on the power play.
Yet, once again, the Panthers penalty kill was stellar as Florida killed off four penalties – including a 5-on-3 chance late in the first and early in the second. Santorelli's first goal came soon after Florida killed off a good Islanders chance.
-- The Panthers injury list may get a little longer as Weiss left the game in the second period with an ankle injury and it appears the Panthers are going to make another call-up from the minors. Weiss has been battling an ankle injury for the past few weeks. The Panthers are already without regulars Steven Reinprecht (groin), Rostislav Olesz (broken finger) and Steve Bernier (orbital bone fracture).
The Panthers made a roster addition late Friday night as center Bill Thomas was called up from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. Thomas has been strong for the Americans, scoring seven goals with 17 assists – including six goals and eight assists in his past nine games.
Unlike some who come up from the minors, Thomas has been around. The 27-year-old from Pittsburgh has now played in 57 NHL games with Florida, Phoenix and the Penguins. He has nine goals and 20 assists during his NHL playing time.
-- David Booth's 14 shots in Boston on Thursday was the most shots taken by a single player since Minnesota's Marian Gaborik did it in 2006. It also tied the franchise record set by Pavel Bure in 2000. Unlike Gaborik and Bure, however, Booth failed to score as the Panthers were shutout 4-0.
-- DeBoer and Islanders coach Jack Capuano have known each other for decades, dating back to their playing days with the old Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL. Saturday was the first time they coached against each other as Capuano made his NHL coaching debut Wednesday against the Lightning.
“I’m sure neither of us back in those days thought we would be coaching in the NHL,’’ DeBoer said. “We both took different paths here. As tough it is to see someone in the fraternity lose their job, it’s nice to see someone get rewarded, who has paid his dues and gone through the right way.’’
Tonight's game will not be carried in South Florida by Fox Sports Florida, but will be available on Center Ice as MSG is covering it.
If you don't have Center Ice, maybe one of your favorite watering holes does. Quarterdeck in Sawgrass does, as does Duffy's. The bar on the second floor of Incredible Ice also has the package so you have plenty of viewing options.
Now, I'm not going to tell you where the link is, but if you Channelsurfing enough (.net) you may just find it.
That said, if I get enough emails or comments here tonight, we'll crank up the LIVE! chat and talk hockey and football and stuff during the game. If you want me to bring back the LIVE! chat, speak up. Or forever hold your peace.
-- Wondering where these pics are from? Check it out here.
Waikiki Hockey? Awesomely bad...
-- A little lineup information for ya:
Bill Thomas will be in the lineup for the Panthers tonight, playing on a fourth line with Shawn Matthias and Darcy Hordichuk. Michal Repik will also be in the lineup.
Rostislav Olesz (broken middle finger) and Steven Reinprecht (groin) are out.
Tomas Vokoun in net.
-- Those of you who like a little radio with your hockey may have to visit another station tonight -- at least early on if the Canes/Virginia Tech game runs long on WQAM.
I'll be sitting next to Randy Moller so check back here later and I'll let you know if there's a station change.
Uniondale, NY -- According to Kevin O in Rochester, the Panthers are calling up center Bill Thomas for Saturday's game against the Islanders.
I don't know who, other than Rostislav Olesz (broken finger), is hurt.
Thomas, a Pittsburgh guy, has played in 56 NHL games with Phoenix and the Pens. He has nine goals and 20 assists in those games.
With Rochester this year, he has seven goals with 17 helpers (6-8-14 in past nine).
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- As we told told those of you who follow us on Twitter (@OnFrozenPond) and Facebook (On Frozen Pond) last night, Dale Tallon went into the NESN broadcast booth to speak with announcer Jack Edwards regarding his comments on the Panthers.
If you have forgotten, Edwards said during the Bruins pregame show that "no one cares" about the Panthers either leaguewide or in South Florida and that they should move to Quebec City because they deserve hockey up there.
It was a good cop/bad cop argument with Andy Brickley taking the 'side of the Panthers fan' that there is hope here; he said that when you look at what Tallon did in Chicago, there's hope in South Florida. Edwards retort? Let Florida build up the Panthers into a winner that way Quebec City gets a good team when they relocate.
I asked Dale for a comment on this piece during the first intermission and he wasn't happy. The quotes I used are cleaned up; I'm assuming Tallon watched the video somewhere during the second period because he wanted to talk to Edwards during the second break.
According to eyewitnesses, it was a heated argument with Tallon coming down hard on Edwards. Edwards stated that he was offering an opinion, and the two ended up shaking hands and moving on -- even though a TD Garden security guard was called in to make sure things didn't get too heated.
I'm told the Panthers front office is pretty ticked off about this. For one, they don't think another franchise's telecast should be ripping another franchise. This wasn't the Bruins announcers calling out Chris Higgins or Shawn Matthias; that's hockey talk. This was the Bruins announcer saying the Panthers don't belong in the NHL and that's league business talk.
And when Edwards -- who is full of bluster, don't get me wrong -- says no one around the league cares about the Panthers, well, doesn't Edwards work for Versus? And exactly how many Panthers games are on Versus this season? ZERO.
The Panthers are home Wednesday against Edwards and the Bruins at the War Memorial. Good seats are still available. Bring the whole family.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Panthers trailed Boston 1-0 going into the third period on Thursday and as the game went on, it didn't look like things were going to change.
On one hand, the Panthers didn't look like they were going to score on goalie Tuukka Rask no matter how many shots they took. On the other, Florida's defense in the third has been terrific this season. The Panthers offense stuck to the script as Rask made 12 saves in the third to help secure his first shutout of the season.
The Panthers defense had a rare lapse, however, as the Bruins three within the final six minutes.
Before that, the Panthers had only given up 11 third period goals all season. While Florida has been good at holding leads, they have not done well coming back from deficits. The Panthers are 7-0 when leading going into a third period; 0-6 when trailing at that point.
The comeback problem is part of a bigger offensive concern, making the team's defensive stands so important. The Panthers struggled holding the fort in past years and have lost points with blown leads. That hasn't been the case this year.
The additions of defensive-minded veterans like Dennis Wideman, Mike Weaver and Marty Reasoner have definitely helped when it comes time to holding teams off. Those three saw plenty of time in the third period of Wednesday's win in Atlanta when the hard-charging Thrashers outshot Florida 18-3 in the final 20 minutes but failed to score the equalizing goal.
“We've done it different ways. Obviously, Vokoun was our best player in the third in Atlanta,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “Against Minnesota, we just shut things down as far as chances went. It's a good group. They're mobile, smart and have a composure as a group to make plays back there. They're not big name defenseman and not the most talented guys in the league, but they have characteristics that have helped us create an identity as a team.''
In the second period of Thursday's loss, there was some commotion down on the ice and Bryan McCabe ended up in the box for 'unsportsmanlike conduct.'
According to DeBoer, there was an unruly fan behind the Panthers bench. DeBoer says an official says he saw a Panthers player use a water bottle to squirt the fan – who was removed by security – although the referee wasn't sure it was McCabe who did so. Regardless, the Panthers killed off the penalty and no further action is expected.
“That was our grassy knoll,'' DeBoer joked. “I don't think we're going to see anything else come of this. We were penalized more than enough as it was. The water hit the glass. No damage done.''
-- DeBoer says there could be a player called up from the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., for Saturday's game. Rostislav Olesz is out with a broken finger suffered Thursday and DeBoer says there are other players suffering minor, unspecified maladies. Darcy Hordichuk has a nasty black eye and required stitches after fighting in the first period Thursday.
The Islanders got off to a surprising start this season, winning four of their first seven games. But since being beaten by the Panthers 4-3 in Sunrise on Oct. 23, things haven't been the same. The Islanders were riding a three-game winning streak when they came to South Florida; they've now since lost 11 straight – gaining just one point in the standings.
The team fired coach Scott Gordon on Monday, promoting Jack Capuano from the minor leagues. Capuano and DeBoer played together in the IHL with the Milwaukee Admirals.
“We have to establish that swagger we had earlier in the season," general manager and former Islanders goalie Garth Snow told reporters when making the coaching change.
-- During the 11-game losing streak, the Islanders (0-10-1) have been outscored 43-16. The Islanders have been outscored 25-8 this month alone.
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT ISLANDERS
When/Where: 7 p.m.; Nassau Veterans Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.
TV/Radio: No Local TV; 560-WQAM
The series: Panthers lead 35-28-8
The game: The Panthers will start Tomas Vokoun in net for the third straight game. Vokoun made 30 saves against the Islanders in his previous start against them and is 13-4-1 against them lifetime with a 1.91 GAA and 94 percent save rate. The Islanders will likely start Dwayne Roloson, who has lost eight straight. Rick DiPietro hasn't played since Nov. 3. This marks the end of Florida's four-game road trip. The Panthers are 1-2-0 and continue to remain being the only team in the NHL that hasn't played an overtime game this season.
BRUINS 4, PANTHERS 0
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
BOSTON – The Bruins haven't scored many goals against the Panthers on home ice recently, but on Thursday night, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton did some damage.
Lucic recorded his second career hat trick off passes from the former Florida sniper and backup goalie Tuukka Rask stopped all 41 shots he faced as the Bruins rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Panthers at TD Garden.
Horton, traded to Boston from Florida during the summer, had his first three-point night since he scored a goal with two assists in Tampa last April – his second-to-last game as a member of the Panthers.
“They all mean a lot, you want to win games and be in the best position for the playoffs,'' said Horton, as Lucic stood nearby wearing a plaid fedora that his teammates all autographed. “But it's definitely nice to beat my old team. [Lucic's] been great all year, is a great player. What an unbelievable game by him.''
When Lucic scored Boston's first goal at 15:37 of the opening period, it was the first time the Panthers had been scored on in Boston since the 2008-09 season. The Panthers shutout streak in Boston lasted 151:06.
Both Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen recorded shutouts here last season as the Panthers won both games at the Garden by 1-0 scores. Florida also beat the Bruins here by a 1-0 score (with Craig Anderson in net) at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Lucic's second and third goals put the Panthers away as he scored twice within a 15-second span with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. Shawn Thornton put the whipped cream on the victory when he scored with 3:54 left to completely, absolutely, put things away.
Until then, however, it was a game. A game the Panthers felt they could even up. David Booth, who was questionable to play before the game, took 14 shots at Rask. One was so hard that it knocked the mask clear off the goalies head. Rask smirked and continued on. It wasn't the Panthers night.
“I just kept shooting, there were rebounds I could have gotten to,'' Booth said. “It was a 1-0 game, we were right there, we outshot them. We didn't get the two points, but if we keep playing like that, we'll find success.''
Vokoun was strong in net for the Panthers once more – he had given up but one goal in each of his previous three starts – but he couldn't hold the Bruins (or Lucic) off all night. The Panthers had a number of chances during the third period to tie the score but couldn't get the puck past Rask.
Rask won 22 games for the Bruins last season as he supplanted Tim Thomas as the starter. But Thomas has been fantastic this season and Rask is back to being the backup. Not only did Thursday mark Rask's first shutout of the season, it also brought his first win. Rask came into the game 0-4-1. Thomas, who won in New York on Wednesday, is 10-1-0.
“It's a nice luxury to have,'' coach Pete DeBoer said, “when the other guy is playing better than that. He was great tonight but we gave one hell of an effort. He was there all night. It looked like we could have taken a hundred shots and nothing was going to go through.''
POWER PLAY WOES
Florida has not scored a power play goal in its past four games and went 0-for-5 against the Bruins on Thursday. The Panthers came into Thursday with the league's 29th ranked power play unit. The Panthers five power play goals are fewest in the league.
“Tuukka Rask was our power play problem,'' DeBoer said. “We created plenty of chances. When they have a goalie playing like that .-.-.''
-- Rostislav Olesz was hit in the hand by a puck on Thursday and he had to leave the game. He will be further evaluated on Friday. Bruiser Darcy Hordichuk left the game to get stitched up after his first period fight with Shawn Thornton but returned.
-- The Panthers plan on holding practice at Northeastern University in Boston on Friday afternoon before flying to Long Island. Florida visits the struggling Islanders on Saturday night.