PANTHERS 2, COYOTES 1 (SO)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even though its an extremely small sample size and may have no real explanation, but the Panthers seem to play their best on the final game of a road trip.
On the opening trip through Canada, Florida's win was in game three at Calgary. The Panthers lost the first two on their second trip before winning in Montreal. Last month, the Panthers won on Long Island after a rough loss in Boston.
Perhaps the homesick Panthers can only fly home after wins?
Whatever it is, the Panthers got it going again Saturday night as Michael Frolik gave them a lead and then scored the shootout winner as Florida beat the Coyotes 2-1.
The Panthers have played in just two overtime games this season and have won both in a shootout. This one went five rounds with Mike Santorelli, Stephen Weiss and Frolik scoring to help Scott Clemmensen get his win after stopping 40 shots.
“We needed it, this was a tough road trip and we were either going home 1-3 or 2-2. There's a big difference,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “This is a big win for us.''
The Panthers should have won the game earlier but failed on a golden power play chance in overtime.
Phoenix was called for two penalties in the overtime, giving the Panthers prime opportunity to get the win -- only the Panthers last-place power play again failed to score.
In the overtime session, the Panthers weren't doing much of anything until Ray Whitney was called for hooking 1:35 in. Florida went on the attack and did put pressure on Ilya Bryzgalov, but couldn't find the back of the net. Later in the overtime, the Coyotes were called for a bench minor, meaning the Panthers got to add a skater and held a 5-on-3 advantage for 36 seconds with a man advantage.
Still, the Panthers failed to score.
“Yeah we should have scored one,'' Frolik said. “We had good chances. Next time we have to put it in. We had a three minute power play. But this is a good two points.''
Said DeBoer: “Again, we got some good looks. Hey, we won the game.''
Frolik put the Panthers in the lead when he beat Ilya Bryzgalov midway through the second period. Phoenix answered about five minutes later when Martin Hanzal deflected a hard shot from Whitney and put it past Clemmensen on a power play. In the shootout, Clemmensen made three saves to get a Florida win.
“It was a complete team effort,'' Clemmensen said. “Everyone played so well from the defense out to the forwards. We needed a win, but we needed a total team effort. This is something we should be proud of and something we should build on.''
-- Radek Dvorak left the game in the second period after crashing head first into the boards after driving in hard on Bryzgalov. Dvorak charged in and lost his footing and went into the back boards extremely hard.
Dvorak looked woozy in the moments following the crash, but he left the ice under his own power. He did not return to the game.
A LITTLE TOUGHNESS
The Panthers could definitely need some more offense, but that's not why winger Kenndal McArdle was called up from the minors. McArdle, who has seven goals in 17 games with Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., was brought up to help add a little grit, a little speed and a little toughness to the lineup.
“These young guys come up and give you a burst of energy,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “Sometimes they hit the wall. In the past we've interchanged guys on a regular basis to get that energy. Right now we feel Kenndal is that guy who can give us that as well as being a physical presence on the fourth line. It was time for a change.''
-- The Panthers were without winger Chris Higgins and Bryan Allen again Saturday because of foot injuries. Allen has a broken bone in his foot but has been skating and could be back in the lineup this week. Higgins has some sort of infection and is still hobbling around.
Florida Panthers Take to the Desert Just Fine on Saturday: Everglades Cats beat Coyotes 2-1 in Shootout ... Frolik Scores Twice (Sorta)
PANTHERS 2, COYOTES 1 (SO)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In less than 24 hours, the mood of the Panthers had definitely changed.
A visiting locker room that was deadly silent in Los Angeles on Thursday night morphed into a more relaxed scene in Arizona.
Instead of throwing his equipment and muttering under his breath, goalie Tomas Vokoun looked relaxed and greeted teammates with a smile. Music from an iPod blared through the sound system.
That's not to say Thursday's 3-2 loss to the host Kings at Staples Center had been forgotten. No, it's too soon for that.
“We have to get over this mentality, get over this hump of letting games slide by,'' said David Booth, who snapped a 12-game drought without a goal in the second period on Thursday to give Florida a lead it would hold until early in the third.
“We're in every game, but we have to start finding ways to win them. Winning has to be the mentality around here. We have to get confidence that we can win a game in the third. Whether we're down one or up one, we have to know we can win it. We have to make a push and have to start doing that now.''
The team didn't do much on Friday afternoon, most of the players traveling off site to do workouts while some injured players – like Bryan Allen – took use of the ice at Jobing.com Arena. A few players and staff planned to go hiking in the nearby mountains later on.
It seems the Panthers will do anything to try and rid themselves of their past two games.
On Wednesday, the host Ducks jumped on the Panthers and never trailed in a 5-3 win. Thursday, the Panthers led 2-1 going into the third but goals from Peter Harrold and Anze Kopitar did Florida in. Kopitar's shot to beat Vokoun came with less than three minutes remaining in the game.
“After Thursday against Anaheim, we needed to bounce back and play solid hockey for 60 minutes,'' said Radek Dvorak. “We have to learn how to win close games. We played well, but at the end, it's 3-2 for them. It's a tough loss. We did a lot of good things like we have for a lot of the season. But we haven't won. It's real tough but we have to bounce back. Take the positive play from tonight and look forward to the next game. It has to start in Phoenix and that's the bottom line.''
Instead of at least picking up a point on the road, the Panthers were left with nothing. Again. Florida has been in just one overtime game this season, beating Tampa Bay in a shootout last Saturday night. The Panthers head into Saturday's game against the Coyotes with losses in five of six.
“There have been five or six times this season we were in a position to pick up some points,'' coach Pete DeBoer said Friday. “We win a couple of those games, we're at .500 and feeling pretty good about ourselves. .-.-. We're going down to their end and missing two chances and they come down and their chances find the back of the net. I think you have to look at how we're handling the situation and not the result. Obviously the results aren't going our way right now.''
Said Stephen Weiss about Thursday's game: “We played a good game but have said that before. Playing good games doesn't mean crap in this league. Certainly everyone played their hearts out and left it out there. It wasn't good enough. That was one of our better games as far as that was.''
-- Michal Repik scored Florida's first goal on Thursday after tapping in a loose puck, but he didn't get a longer stay with the Panthers out of it. Repik was sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday. Kenndal McArdle will replace him in the lineup on Saturday.
-- The Panthers will likely be without winger Chris Higgins for a second straight game because of a nasty infection on the top of his right foot. Higgins said he felt some pain in the foot during Monday's practice in Anaheim but played through it.
The top of his foot is completely red and swollen and he has trouble walking. Higgins said he went to a local hospital “but still haven't gotten a straight answer out of anyone on what this is.'' The Panthers say they have ruled out Staph.
-- Allen, out for the past few weeks with a broken bone in his foot, skated again on Friday and says the pain is diminishing each day.
SATURDAY: PANTHERS AT COYOTES
When, Where: 8 p.m.; Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Ariz.
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Coyotes lead 11-8-3
The game: Before losing two straight to close out November, the Coyotes were one of the hottest teams in the league, winning seven straight from Nov. 10-23. Phoenix also picked up two points in the standings by losing in overtime in the games preceeding the winning streak. .-.-. The Panthers have lost two straight to the Coyotes and haven't won here since 2004. .-.-. Florida was 3-2-0 against the Winnipeg Jets before they moved to the desert in time for the 1996-97 season.
KINGS 3, PANTHERS 2
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
LOS ANGELES – As his teammates took off their equipment in silence, Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun muttered obscenities under his breath as he tore off his gear.
Vokoun ripped off his skates and threw them into his bag. He then pulled off his pads with such force one wondered if his shoulder was coming with it.
After dragging his gear into the hallway at Staples Center, Vokoun walked to the shower with a look on his face that would have made anyone in his way move. And quick.
Thursday was one of those nights for the Panthers.
Despite playing a strong game for much of the night, the Panthers gave up two goals in the third period – one early and one late – as the struggling Kings stormed back to beat the Panthers 3-2.
Anze Kopitar's shot with 2:43 remaining was the killer for the Panthers as they have dropped five of the past six and continue to lose ground in the standings. Florida is 8-2 this season when leading going into the third period – its other loss under such circumstances coming last Wednesday in Sunrise against the Bruins.
“After Thursday against Anaheim, we needed to bounce back and play solid hockey for 60 minutes,'' said Radek Dvorak, who had a number of key shots stopped by goalie Jonathan Quick, including one with less than nine minutes left in a tie game.
“We have to learn how to win close games. We played well, but at the end, it's 3-2 for them. It's a tough loss. We did a lot of good things like we have for a lot of the season. But we haven't won. It's real tough but we have to bounce back. Take the positive play from tonight and look forward to the next game. It has to start in Phoenix and that's the bottom line.''
After a disappointing performance in Anaheim Wednesday night, coach Pete DeBoer put his team on the ice for a rare day-after practice prior to the game. DeBoer said one reason he did so was to purge his players memory of that game and it seemed to work as the Panthers played a strong game against a Los Angeles team that had lost seven of eight and scored just four goals in its previous four games.
“It would have been nice to get at least a point out of that. It's deflating to say the least,'' Stephen Weiss said. “To put so much into the game against a good team like that and get scored on late, it hurts for sure. We just have to bounce back.''
The Kings, shut out in Anaheim on Monday, scored first as Jarred Stoll scored on Vokoun with a shot from the right circle midway through the first.
Florida was undeterred by the early deficit as Michal Repik made up for a minus-3 rating in Anaheim as he tapped in a loose puck that bounced right to him off the back boards just over three minutes later to tie the score.
David Booth's offensive struggles have been well documented as the Panthers left winger came into the night without a goal in his previous 12 games.
Booth, who led the Panthers in goals two seasons ago, gave Florida its first California lead since Bryan Allen beat the Sharks in overtime last spring when he whipped a shot from the circle to beat Jonathan Quick five hole.
Since becoming a regular with the Panthers, Booth's longest scoring drought was 11 games – that coming in the year he lead Florida with 31 goals. He scored four in the five games following that.
“It's good to see anyone score, but especially him,'' Weiss said. “He's a guy we need and has been struggling to just get one. Hopefully it keeps going.''
Florida led 2-1 at the second intermission but the lead didn't last. Florida put some pressure on Quick at the onset of the period but couldn't get anything through. The Kings tied it less than three minutes into the third when Peter Harrold fired off a slap shot from the slot.
“We played a good game but have said that before,'' Weiss said. “Playing good games doesn't mean crap in this league. Certainly everyone played their hearts out and left it out there. It wasn't good enough. That was one of our better games as far as that was.''
Said DeBoer: “We played the way we wanted to play, executed the game plan but their big guy Kopitar gets one at the right time. They got a couple key saves in the third to keep them in the game and their best player gets the winning goal. That was the story.''
-- The Panthers played without winger Chris Higgins because of a foot infection. DeBoer said Higgins somehow got a cut on his foot and it's infected enough that he was wearing a loose fitting tennis shoe with his suit as he limped around the arena on Thursday.
-- Florida concludes its west coast swing Saturday night against Phoenix. The team plans to hold an afternoon practice at the Coyotes arena in Glendale, Ariz., on Friday afternoon.
Florida Panthers in Los Angeles ... Pete Practices Team ... Higgins OUT ... Pete Responds to Wideman (kinda)
Usually the Panthers don't practice on the morning of a second game of a back-to-back set, but Pete DeBoer had them out here this morning to work out some kinks and basically "purge" the disappointing performance to the Ducks on Wednesday.
"We went through some tape so it was more of a purging of last night,'' DeBoer said.
"We wanted to clean up our breakouts and some of the things I didn't think we did well. It wasn't a long skate, but I thought it was affective. I think both purging last night and fixing things.
“I don't think anyone feels good about the game last night. This gave us an opportunity to cut it off and go fresh tonight.''
Pete also responded to comments from defenseman Dennis Wideman. After Wednesday's game, Wideman told Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel that the Panthers needed to emulate the Ducks a little bit more offensively and use their speed a little more.
“We're doing a little bit more,'' DeBoer said. "We've shot around all different ideas on the power play and tried different things. That's something we're trying to do.
“I don't have much comment on that. Dennis isn't a coach. He's a player. If he has a solution for it, he should speak up.''
-- Other stuff:
Chris Higgins is out after developing some sort of infection. He has a cut on his foot and apparently the infection is bad enough that he can't skate. He was hobbling around the locker room last night. That means Bill Thomas is in tonight.
Tomas Vokoun gets the start for the second straight SoCal night.
-- Pete on the Panthers being a 'critical' part of the season:
“Yeah, it's critical. We're still in the pack. We're still in the middle of New Jersey and Buffalo and Toronto, Carolina. That's a pack of teams people will probably say we should be in, but we have to separate ourselves and string some wins together here.''
DUCKS 5, PANTHERS 3
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
ANAHEIM – The Panthers power play was obviously missing Steve Bernier.
The Panthers forward, who had been out since having facial surgery on Nov. 6, scored two power play goals to break Florida's drought in that department, but it was not enough as the Ducks won 5-3 at Honda Center.
Bernier, who got hit in the face by a stick-wielding Brent Burns in the moments following Florida's game against Minnesota on Nov. 5, ended with three points.
“It was my first game back and I felt good on the ice,'' said Bernier, who came into the game with just one goal this season. “That said, we needed to win that game. We didn't play for 60 minutes. That's why we lost.''
Florida trailed 3-0 but started its comeback when Mike Santorelli scored in the second. Bernier then scored Florida's first power play goal since Nov. 10 as Stephen Weiss' shot deflected off him and past Jonas Hiller to make it 3-2.
Less than a minute later, Tomas Vokoun gave up a goal to Corey Perry. Florida never rebounded from that one despite getting another Bernier goal late in the game after Vokoun left the net giving the Panthers a 6-on-4 advantage.
“That was huge,'' Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said of Perry's goal.
The Ducks closed out the Panthers with an empty net goal from Bobby Ryan in the final moments.
The Panthers have now lost four of their past five. Anaheim is now in a three-way tie with Phoenix and Dallas for the lead in a tight Pacific Division. Those three lead Los Angeles and San Jose by just three points.
Florida trailed 3-0 in the second period after the Ducks got two goals from bruiser George Parros (season total before Wednesday: 1) and one from captain Ryan Getzlaf. Parros and Getzlaf scored within a minute of each other to make it 3-0 as the Panthers defense gave up the puck twice deep in their zone.
“We didn't handle their forecheck pressure at all, we were soft all night with the puck and without it,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “When their big guys were playing, it was men with boys. We didn't have the response physically and weren't firm and direct with the puck. That led to a lot of problems.''
The Panthers then showed a little grit by coming back, Santorelli pulling them within one after knocking in a puck near the net just over a minute after Parros' got his second of the night.
With just 14.6 seconds left in the second, the Panthers got their first power play chance of the night. They didn't score before the break, but did so 1:20 into the third when Weiss put up a shot that skipped off Bernier and past Jonas Hiller.
Before that, the Panthers hadn't put up a power play goal since Nov. 10 against Toronto – a 36-chance scoreless streak that had not only become a joke around the league but had Florida players and coaches laughing at the absurdity of it at practice.
“It hit me in the leg,'' Bernier said. “Hopefully that takes a little of the pressure off the power play guys, maybe we're a little more confident. There's always a positive in a game and that was a positive. Your job in the front of the net is to screen the goalie. Sometimes the puck goes off you, sometimes not.''
If the Panthers were going to come back, this was their chance. It was not to be as Perry one-timed a shot from the slot and beat Tomas Vokoun to give the Ducks their two-goal cushion back.
The Panthers visit Los Angeles Thursday night at 10:30 EST.
ANAHEIM – The Panthers didn't make a big splash this offseason as far as bringing in big names go.
Yet the players Florida did sign or trade for have fared well. Especially the one who completely sailed under the radar in August. No, it was not big news when the Panthers signed a 5-foot-9 defenseman named Mike Weaver in August.
Only the Panthers were, and continue to be, excited to have landed him.
“You're going to love this guy,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said at the start of training camp.
Weaver has been as consistent a defenseman as the Panthers have played this season. Weaver, while one of the smallest players in the league, sure plays up in class. Weaver has freakishly long arms and employs the longest stick the league allows.
When Mike Kitchen was an assistant with the Panthers last year, he suggested the team look into trading for Weaver at the deadline. Kitchen, who coached the Blues before Weaver arrived in St. Louis, raved about the way Weaver helped out on the penalty kill with his long reach and his willingness to flop to the ice to block a shot.
Weaver is doing those things with the Panthers. And they are appreciated. In Saturday's win at Tampa Bay, Weaver led the Panthers with five blocked shots, tying a season high. His 43 blocked shots are just one behind Wideman for the team lead.
“He's good for goalies,'' Tomas Vokoun said. “You have to understand what you are there for, what your role on a team is. He does. He's doing it really well. You have to find a way to stay in this league, especially if you have some sort of disadvantage. He plays hard every night. That's why he's in the NHL.''
Said coach Pete DeBoer: “He plays bigger than his size. He's just been a real addition for us. How can you not love the guy? He plays hard every day and is a consummate team guy. He's not looking for goals or points, he just takes a lot of pride in the details in the game. Guys really respect that. He probably wasn't given much of a chance to play in the NHL as a defensive defenseman. There's not a lot of 5-9 guys there. He's found a niche and a way to do a lot of little subtle things to be an effective player.''
Weaver, whose gap-tooth grin and fun personality has made him a favorite of his teammates, says he was glad his signing wasn't blown up and is happy to just be an anonymous member of the Panthers.
Like an offensive lineman in football, Weaver knows usually the only time his name is brought up is when he does something negative. One of those exceptions came earlier this season when his one goal this season helped Florida beat the Islanders.
“I'm a guy who doesn't get a lot of ink and I'm fine with that,'' Weaver said. “I'm a goalies best friend because I do the little things. It feels good to do those things and have the guys pat me on the back. I always want to do more, not to say I want to go outside my game, but I'm a penalty killer. When we get scored on, I am hard on myself.
“Everyone in the league is here for a reason. You can't have a team of fast short guys just like you can't have a team of nothing but trees. I just keep it simple. The more times I stay out of the papers, the better.''
-- Steve Bernier returned to the lineup for the first time since he required facial surgery after getting hit in the face with the stick of Minnesota's Brent Burns during a postgame fight on Nov. 5. Bernier will be required to wear a steel cage on his mask for at least the time being.
-- Winger Cory Stillman (back) missed Wednesday's game.
THURSDAY: PANTHERS AT KINGS
When/Where: 10:30 p.m.; Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV/Radio: FSNF; 560-WQAM
The series: Kings lead 10-8-3
The game: The Panthers are now 1-4 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season after winning in Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Kings haven't played since losing 2-0 at Anaheim on Monday. .-.-. Los Angeles is struggling, losing four straight and seven of eight. .-.-. The Panthers haven't won in Los Angeles since Nov. 27, 2002. Stephen Weiss is the only current Panther who played in that game.