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MONDAY'S GAME: Florida Panthers Special Teams not So Special: Penguins 3, Panthers 2

PENGUINS 3, PANTHERS 2

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

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.

Comments

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I have said it a million times..."Why does Hulton still have a job????" The power play was pathetic last year and is still pathetic this year with this Bozo running it.

cliff - if you could speak to an issue or two with hulton's approach, perhaps you wouldn't appear to be what the rest of the fans who chant such things are - a real bozo.

This was one of the worst games played this year. The power play was anemic, we were not taking shots, and we were not being physical. The power play is horrible. I am tired of watching the team elect to pass instead of shoot, not cover the dump out lanes, and not put a person in front of the net. Its basic fundimental hockey. The forwards carry the puck behind the net instead of shooting and the d pass back and forth to each other. Why this team has a fear of shooting is beyond me. The whole game it seemed that we were happy just to hang in there with Pittsburgh. At times, and I emphise at times, we outplayed them which led to our two goals. But instead of applying more pressure we let up. The penguins are a team that doesn't like to get hit. We saw that for the past few seasons starting with the Ballard hit on Malkin. When we played the Penguins physical they shut down and crawl into a shell. Now it seems like we don't have a big hitting defenseman (yes I know that Allen is physical but he still lacks the ability to knock a player out with one hit like Ballard or Boyton were able to) and we were out matched the whole game. It was like our d was downy soft. No one stepped up in the face of Crosby or Malkin or even stepped up to defend a teammate when we had the two boarding calls. How about at the end of the game when Cfosby tried to start something with Booth. Anybody see Sid get punched in the face? No just a bunch of grabbing. Its pathetic. This team has come a long way but the Defense still miss that tough guy like we used to have like Laus, Jovo, Ballard, Bowmeester(though I am overall happy he is gone) ect.

did you just say blowmesster is a tough guy.He is one of the softest defensive i have ever seen! he threw maybe 4 hits in his whole career as a panther and he got in maybe 2 fights.shows how much of a panther fan you are

Panther fan,
As much as I disliked Bouwmeester, there was a reason so many teams wanted him and were willing to trade a bounty for him. He was consistant for being punishing defender and logs a bunch of time. As the years went on and the losing continued he did dwindle because he didn't want to be here. Any team that was hoping to get him were hoping to turn him into the player he once was. His last year here he was checked out and his game clearly showed.

By the way, who has the audacity to call some one out and hides behind the name Panthers fan? Just saying.

zerog...could you. pls just post an intelligent opinion in lieu of a bash?
we have a 7% pp. someone needs to be accountable for this. siegal promised accountability last spring amd its time to demonstrate it by firing Hulton.

this game sucked, nothing worked in the arena which was a joke. when i was leaving the esculator cut off and everyone almost ate it.

just a real sh!tty night

I like the make up of this "expansion team" yes we are an expansion team, this is Tallon's first year to undo ten years of mismanagement.

Having said that, despite the efforts we have no finishers and thus we stand around on the power play and pass the puck back and forth, we need to crash the net and get garbage goals on the power play, look at the elite teams and the goals scored compared to the panthers.

Our hard work pays off on the 5 on 5 and the penalty kill but for some reason we are not aggressive on the power play.

30th in the league in the power play will be the downfall of this team as we begin to fall further behind the playoff teams.

it would be great to win the next two games but as we have seen with the flyers, penguins and bruins we don't have the horses to keep up with the elite teams and surely don't have the finisher to keep up with their goal scoring abilities.

Sorry Ad1zzl3, Bouwmeester is not a "punishing" defenseman. He is soft, he doesn't check, and he surely doesn't hit. Yes, he logs a bunch of ice time, which is his strength, but he was never physical. Calgary is realizing their mistake of giving him that huge contract, and they are not happy. Listen to Barnaby, who said he loved playing against Bouwmeester because he knew the guy wouldn't hit. Yes, Laus, Jovo, Ballard, and Boynton could be tough. Hordichuck can be tough, Bouwmeester is as soft as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Oh, and the Power Play needs to be fixed immediately.

GR, isnt it time to take PD to task? idont understand why this isnt the headline, we get 4 shots in 5 PP's, we are 0-20 and 5-67, 30th and epic failing...isnt that the story? Isnt his excuses worth questioning, one day its the goalie, the next its our pk, anything but Hulton? Why doe he still have a job????

\When will Hulton be fired????Last on the PP in the league. It would be one thing if this was an new problem, but the panthers PP also was just as awful last year.

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